January 16, 2014
By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU City News Service
Los Angeles is the safest it has been in 65 years, with overall crime rates falling for an 11th straight year, police Chief Charlie Beck said on Monday January 13. Beck was joined by Mayor Eric Garcetti in announcing that there were 251 murders in the city in 2013 — a 16.1 percent drop from the previous year and a 34.6 percent drop from 2008. Part one crimes, which include both property and violent crimes, fell by 5.2 percent to 100,521, which represents the lowest level since 1949 — based on numbers adjusted for population — and is the lowest since 1956 in terms of the raw numbers.
The last year Los Angeles had less than 251 homicides was 1966. Also within the violent crimes category, robberies took a 12.5 percent dive, from 8,983 to 7,863; aggravated assaults dropped by 9.1 percent, from 8,329 to 7,570; and the number of rapes reported dropped 31.7 percent, from 936 to 639. Violent crimes overall dropped 12 percent in 2013, down to 16,323 from 18,547. Property crimes saw a 3.7 percent decline overall, from 87,478 to 84,198. Burglaries went down by 5.6 percent, auto theft by 6.4 percent, and larceny by 2.5 percent.
Gang crime fell by 17.6 percent, with gang-related homicides dropping by 9.4 percent. While he is “proud” of the statistics and the department's work in helping reduce crime rates, Garcetti said this was also an occasion to recognize the “many victims of crime.”
“Each one of those 251 murders, homicides, is a person, is a family (member), is a community (member), so our goal must be to try to get as close to zero on all of these crimes as we can,” he said.
Garcetti mentioned “even more ambitious plans” to improve the crime rate.
“Together with this chief, we’re going to continue to push crime down in every L.A. neighborhood,” he said.
Garcetti did not name specific neighborhoods, nor provide statistics on each of them, but said there are still “pockets that are too violent,” where there are still “too many gunshots at night for our Angelenos, and too many tragedies we still have to wake up and read about in the morning.”
Beck declined to discuss specific neighborhoods, but said that each of the city’s four bureaus — Central, South, Valley and West —saw drops in overall crime.
The drop in crime rates is “no accident,” Beck said, attributing much of the success to police efforts to work with community members.
“Community policing is not just a phrase in the Los Angeles police department,” he said. “Building strong communities, building healthy communities, building community efficacy, building communities who can see themselves as problem solvers, is what makes the difference.”
Beck said progress had been made in reducing property crimes — such as burglary, motor vehicle theft and larceny — that also involve violence.
“Property crime, when combined with violent crime, is the most difficult to affect,” he said. “It is also the type of crime that is most likely to affect you.”
Garcetti announced that Eileen Decker, a public safety deputy in former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s administration, agreed to stay on to head up public safety and homeland security policy under Garcetti. Decker joined Villaraigosa’s staff in 2009 and stayed on with Garcetti to assist in the mayoral transition. The mayor said Decker’s “experience in helping to guide these historic drops in crime, as well as her aggressive commitment to fire department reform and emergency preparedness and homeland security, make her the clear choice” for the job.
Garcetti reiterated his concern about the number of police officers dropping to about 9,900 at the end of 2013, falling just under the departments’ goal of 10,000 and below “what is acceptable to me.” Garcetti dismissed concerns the LAPD was having trouble attracting police candidates because of salaries. He blamed the dip in the number of officers on the pace of background checks, saying that about 200 recruits were waiting to start police academy training.
“There are plenty of candidates,” but they are “backlogged right now due to background investigations,” he said. “So we have expedited that with the personnel department. We just processed 20 of them, and I think there’s another 200 of them that are waiting to move forward so that we can have recruit classes.”
A new class of LAPD recruits will start at the end of January, and Garcetti said he talked to Beck about training more officers. In a proposed budget approved by the Police Commission recently, police said the department was unable to attract enough qualified candidates. According to a report, the problems “stem from the fact that the city is competing against other local law enforcement agencies that are now hiring (and) ... offering starting salaries as high as 20 percent greater than the city.”
The report said LAPD deployment was 10,001 sworn officers by the end of fiscal 2012-13 but dropped to 9,911 by Nov. 2. The proposed police budget for 2014-15 is $1.4 billion, a 7.9 percent increase from the previous year. Labor negotiations with the police union and other employee unions are expected to begin in the coming months, with contracts set to start expiring in June.