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L.A. Hit A Low In Homicides This Summer, Matching Figures From 1966

(Photo by Peggy Archer via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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There were a total of 59 homicides in L.A. for the months of June, July, and August in 2017, the LAPD announced Tuesday. The city recorded the same number of homicides during the summer of 2014 which, according to the L.A. Times, marked "the fewest killings in a single summer since 1966."

“Fifty-nine homicides is far too many,” Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters on Tuesday, reports the Times. But he added that, “that’s a pretty significant accomplishment for this city to have a summer that was that safe.” In recent years the city has normally seen about 70 to 80 homicides per summer. The Times partly credits the drop to, most notably, the hiring of more officers for the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division, and the establishment of a command post in South L.A. for quicker response times.

The news comes after a particularly alarming spike in August in 2015, when 39 people were killed in that month alone. That surge amounted to a seven percent increase in the year’s total homicides, when compared to the previous year’s. The Times says that the LAPD’s maneuvers to curb homicides were a response to that spike in 2015.

Overall, the homicide rate in L.A. has been dropping precipitously since the early 1990s, when the city averaged about 1000 homicides a year—NPR notes that this period marked the “height of a massive drug epidemic.” By the early 2000s those figures were nearly cut in half, according to City-Data.

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County-wide, the homicide trend is a downward one as well. As reported at Los Angeles Daily News, there were 1,231 homicides in L.A. County in 2002; by 2010, that figure had dropped to 700. While the reasons behind the trend are still hazy, the Daily News attributes some of it to a drop in gang violence. “A sustained police crackdown in the Los Angeles area also pushed many gang members to economically depressed portions of the Inland Empire or to Las Vegas,” said the Daily News.

NPR notes that the drop in homicides is part of a larger, nation-wide trend, pointing out that one of the biggest factors is that the crack epidemic have subsided somewhat, and that dealers have resorted to less violent means. "Crack dealers have learned how to do business without killing each other," said Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at UCLA. "In the early days, it was like a gold rush, and people were literally shooting each other on the street corners.