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Are Crime Rates Back down to 1956 Levels? Nope.

Photo by A.C. Thamer via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
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You know the saying, it goes something like this: "statistics speak for themselves." So when LA Weekly's Patrick Range McDonald got sick of hearing the Mayor and LAPD Chief William Bratton claim crime levels were down to 1956 levels year after year, he decided to do his own statistics gathering finding that no, Los Angeles is really not living in the 50s still. Here's some of what we learned:

  • Currently, LA is down to 1961 levels of crime when looking at 2008 figures, the LAPD claims. The 1956 was what they were pushing for previous years. Wait, didn't crime go down from 2007 to 2008?
  • In 1956, security guards weren't needed at every grocery store, school and shopping center.
  • "Home Invasion Robbery" not a coined term yet. Nor was "Random Shooting Victim."
  • Gangs used knives and chains in 1956.
  • Basically, "crime existed on a fundamentally different level in 1956."
  • The 1956 comparison figure is based on a conglomeration of Part I crimes--homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft--of today and yesteryear. But it's not based on comparing homicide to homicide or auto theft to auto theft.
  • Comparing numbers directly, there were double the number of killings per capita in 2007 than 1956. Same goes for robbery. However, rape, burglary and larcency have dropped--the former is credited due to a national trend and DNA technologies.
  • LA's clearance rates--crimes cleared by arrest, not prosecution--and property-recovery rates are horrible when compared to 1956.

Despite all this, Bratton does not think much of statisticians and criminologists. For man who is known for great quotes, here's another one: “It’s common practice with statistics to go back and match it against the lowest point in time,” said Bratton during a 45-minute interview with L.A. Weekly. “The public gets it, the criminologists don’t. Once again, who in hell cares? Nobody’s listening to them anyway. I’m a practitioner. I get the job done. They can write from now to Doomsday; none of them are getting anything done. Most of them don’t even get out of their offices to see what the real world looks like. I live in the real world.”