Santa Barbara County Reports Highest Murder Rate Since 2015

California Department of Justice Releases Reports on Homicide, Use-of-Force Stats for 2021

Credit: Courtesy

The annual statewide reports on crime — including homicide, use of force, and juvenile justice statistics — were released earlier this week by the California Department of Justice, revealing details on Santa Barbara County’s crime rate in the midst of larger trends across the state.

“Good data is a cornerstone of good public policy,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement released Thursday. “While crime rates remain significantly below their historical highs, property and violent crimes continue to have devastating consequences for communities across the state.”

Here in Santa Barbara, the number of homicides jumped from eight in 2020 to 18 murders last year, matching its highest total since 2015. Over the past 10 years, Santa Barbara has fluctuated between six and 18 murders for an average of 12.1 homicides per year. In 2021, the county’s homicide rate per 100,000 people was reported at 1.4.

In comparison, Ventura County reported 20 homicides last year, and Los Angeles County reported the highest total in the state at 600. The deadliest county per capita was Kern County, where 124 total murders brought the homicide rate to 13.7 for every 100,000 people, the highest rate of any county since 2015.

Statewide, the murder rate has risen by 7.2 percent, but the 2,361 murders reported in 2021 is still “significantly below California’s historical high” of 4,095 homicides in 1993, Bonta said.

In addition to the homicide report, the state released a report on use of force across California. In 2021, there were 628 incidents that involved the use of force across the state. Of the 660 civilians involved in these incidents, more than half of the individuals (50.6 percent) were Hispanic.

For Santa Barbara County, there were a total of seven incidents involving 12 officers and eight civilians. In those seven incidents, four ended in injury and the other three resulted in a civilian death. Four of the incidents were in response to calls for service, two were reported as “crimes in progress,” and one was the result of a traffic stop.

Law enforcement agencies use these reports to better implement new policies and respond to growing trends specific to each community. The annual reports are typically released in July, but the release was pushed back this year due to a recent overhaul of the state’s electronic reporting to a new system known as the California Incident-Based Reporting System (CIBRS). To view the complete reports, visit

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