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Crime Is On the Steady Decline in Los Angeles City and County

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Statistics released by local law enforcement agencies show that crime in Los Angeles and the county is on the decline—paralleling a nationwide decline in crime.

Serious crime in the city dropped for the ninth straight year, according to the Associated Press. That bucks the conventional wisdom that a bum economy leads to an uptick in crime. Criminologists have noted this trend nationwide when they look at FBI data, but they say that they haven't figured out all the different factors that explain why crime rates that seemed out of control at the end of the last century have been steadily declining this century. What is clear is that crime stats don't seem to be directly tied to the health of the economy. Criminologists say that a number of factors are likely at play.

Of course, police chiefs have been more than happy to take most of the credit. Former LAPD and NYPD police chief Bill Bratton was on NPR's Talk of the Nation to explain why he thought his departments' work in New York and then Los Angeles brought crime rates down:

In New York and Los Angeles the majority of the credit, being quite frank with you, that in both those cities - and I was police commissioner in '94 to '96 in New York and for 2002 to 2009 in Los Angeles, the country's two largest cities and presided over the beginnings of phenomenal decreases in crime. And I give a lot of the credit to the police, who were focused on the changing of behavior because we have finally come to appreciate that crime is not caused by, but influenced by, the economy sometimes, by the weather sometimes, by demographics sometimes, by poverty, by racism. Those are influences which for 30 years criminologists, academics and politicians told us that they were the causes of crime.

The cause of crime is quite simple: It's human beings who decide intentionally to commit a crime, criminals, or many others who get caught up in the moment of passion under the inducement of alcohol or drugs and commit crimes. That's what police exist for, to control behavior.

And in New York City, and I can speak very specifically to it, and in Los Angeles, I can specifically towards there also, that was the focus of the Los Angeles and New York City police departments: to control behavior, to change it. And that's effectively what the single most significant cause was, if you will, in both those cities.

And also the embrace of a philosophy of policing, community policing, that after the failed philosophy of reactive policing, community policing focused on the prevention of crime, returning us to our roots.

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A few years ago Bratton claimed crime in Los Angeles had returned to 1956 levels. Now Mayor Villaraigosa is claiming we've traveled back in time even further to 1952.Here is a round-up of initial crime stats that are being tossed around today. Unless noted otherwise, these have been picked out from the Times' article today:

  • There were 298 murders in Los Angeles in 2011, which is the second year the city has dropped under the 300. The homicide rate was four times as high in the 1990s.
  • The LAPD said that 170 of those murders were gang-related, according to the City Maven.
  • By comparison, the city had 488 homicides in 2005 and 314 in 2009, the Maven reported.
  • Bucking the trend in L.A. were LAPD's Central Division in downtown, which experienced a jump in homicides, robberies and burglaries.
  • There were also more homicides and shootings at the Harbor Division, which includes the San Pedro area and other neighborhoods near the port.
  • Officer-involved shootings are up are 65 percent since last year and those are higher than any other recent year. (Those numbers are slightly higher than the last figures put out by the LAPD union, which noted officer-involved shootings were up 58.8 percent. It also noted that assaults on LAPD officers were up 26.7 percent.)
  • 25 people were killed by LAPD officers in the line of duty last year.
  • Crime at LAX dropped 27 percent from last year even though passenger volume rose, according to the Associated Press.
  • Robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and auto thefts in the city were all down from last year somewhere between 3 percent and 9 percent (note: this seems like an imprecise way to report this data but AP reported it the same way).
  • Overall, violent crime decreased 7.3 percent, while property crimes decreased 5.5 percent, according to the Maven.
  • There were 283 homicides in the rest of Los Angeles County, which represents a 12 percent decline from last year, according to data the Times obtained from the coroner's office.
  • Compton reported 17 homicides last year, which is down 60 percent from 2007, according to a Times analysis.
  • Inglewood, Boyle Heights and Lancaster also had significantly fewer homicides.
  • Altogether there were 15,000 fewer crimes reported in 2011 than last year, according to data from the LAPD and LASD.
  • The Sheriff's Century station, which includes Lynwood and Florence, saw a rise in homicides and auto thefts.
  • Reported rapes in both the city and county were down 20 percent, which experts attribute to advances in DNA evidence — though they note rapes are often underreported.