How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

How safe do you feel in L.A.? It depends on your race

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KPCC

An officer at the scene of the double murder of two University of Southern California students in Los Angeles' West Adams neighborhood, April 11, 2012

Angelenos needn't brace themselves for another riot anytime soon, according to a new survey released today. But they don't see life in the city the same way, with differences in how they perceive race relations, their safety, and other aspects of life depending at least somewhat on their race and ethnicity.

A couple of weeks ahead of the 20th anniversary of the city's 1992 riots this April 29, Loyola Marymount University's Center for the Study of Los Angeles has released the results of a survey that shows Angelenos to be generally optimistic about their hometown.

Asked if it was "likely or unlikely" that there would be riots or disturbances like those experienced in 1992 within the next five years, only 41 percent of 1,600 respondents said yes, compared with 61 percent during a similar survey in 1997. An overall majority also said they'd seen progress in race relations.

But broken down by demographic group, the responses are revealing. Asked if they believe the city in general, and their neighborhood in particular, is going in the "right direction or wrong direction," black Angelenos were the most likely to say "wrong direction;" meanwhile, white Angelenos were more likely than others to say that racial and ethnic groups in L.A. are getting along "very well" or "somewhat well."

Asked if they see Los Angeles as having become safer or not as safe compared with 20 years ago, 40 percent of black Angelenos saw it as "not as safe," compared with 21 percent of whites, 32 percent of Latinos, and 36 percent of Asians. Meanwhile whites, followed by Latinos and Asians, were more likely to see it as having become safer.

Along the same lines, 43 percent of black respondents and 38 percent of Latino respondents said they feared that crime in Los Angeles had gotten worse; on the flip side, 41 percent of white respondents said they saw crime as less of a problem than it was 20 years ago. In a chart:

The responses are, or course, reflective of respondents' experiences and the neighborhoods they live in. Just today in West Adams, a traditionally black neighborhood that has become increasingly Latino, police are investigating the shooting deaths of two students from China who attended nearby University of Southern California, shot as they sat in their car at around 1 a.m. The two victims, a man and a woman in their 20s, were both graduate students. Police told KPCC that while violent crime is down, four people have been killed in the area this year so far.

Perhaps not surprisingly, both black and Latino respondents in the LMU survey were the most likely to say they believed the city's gang problems had grown worse, as opposed to improving.

On the bright side, in spite of continuing tensions in areas like South L.A. and Compton, where black flight has taken place while more Latinos have moved in, 44 percent of Latinos said that race relations between the two groups had improved, as opposed to 15 percent saying they had not. Black respondents were fairly split.

There's more to the LMU survey, which touched on education, housing, employment and other quality of life issues in the city. It can be downloaded here.

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