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Sheriff Laurie Smith cites low crime rates in county

Los Altos Hills

Even though Santa Clara County is geographically one of the largest in California, its crime rate is significantly lower than comparable or larger counties, according to Sheriff Laurie Smith.

"In terms of the number of crimes per population, we're half of what the other top 10 counties are," Smith said.

Santa Clara County is the fifth largest county in the state, covering 1,312 square miles.

Sheriff's department statistics show that from January through July, the crime rate in Los Altos Hills remained very low. No homicides, sex crimes, robberies or armed robberies have occurred this year.

Department records show nine burglaries, one auto theft, four assaults, six incidents of domestic violence and 24 traffic accidents in the affluent hillside community.

Crime levels in unincorporated San Antonio Hills are similarly low.

Smith offered several reasons for the low crime rate in the county.

The economy has been strong, and many county residents are well-educated and affluent. While gangs do exist within the county, their numbers are not as significant as in other California counties. Smith believes the county's Restorative Justice Program and an emphasis on working with youth also make a difference.

The sheriff's department has contracts with three cities - Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Altos Hills - and with the Valley Transit Authority and the Santa Clara County Parks Department to act as their police force. Its 1,420 sworn personnel are also responsible for the county's unincorporated areas, such as San Antonio Hills, and along the county freeways.

About 73 percent of Santa Clara County is unincorporated.

"We have responsibility for everything but traffic," Smith said. "The California Highway Patrol takes care of traffic issues. "If a crime occurs on the freeway, CHP turns the matter over to the sheriff's department."

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