SAN DIEGO - The murder rate in San Diego was up almost 20 percent in 2012 from the year before, and in San Diego County, the numbers increased by almost 23 percent.
San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said gangs are growing as a result of the state's prison realignment with California wardens shifting tens of thousands of inmates to county jail cells or providing early release.
"We're seeing about a thousand additional people out of prison and they don't have quite the level of oversight they would normally have and it's pretty clear that it's having some effect on the gangs and they're being more aggressive than before," Lansdowne said.
Gang violence is up 34 percent, he said.
The San Diego Police Department is battling the trend with fewer men and women, though the chief has hopes for additional hires in 2013.
"We're down about 109 officers right now and Mayor Filner – we've had several conversations – is very committed to allowing us to start to rebuild through the academies and providing some additional funds for us to have the overtime to be able to attack aggressively some of the gang issues in San Diego," said Lansdowne.
Lansdowne makes it a habit to go on patrol himself on Christmas Eve. After 20 years, still, his eyes were opened a bit last week.
"I was a little surprised," he said. "I knew it was happening but when you're actually there answering the calls, there's very, very little time for the officers to do any preventive patrol with them going from call to call to call to call."
Lansdowne said interagency cooperation is another key in the coming year, including working closely with probation, state and county law enforcement. He expressed optimism.