Villaraigosa on Occupy LA, city budget, declining crime

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A photo of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa spoke with KPCC Thursday, reflecting on Los Angeles' budget and decrease in crime rate for 2011.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke with KPCC about Los Angeles' budget, L.A.'s crime rates declining for a ninth straight year, how Occupy L.A. changed the city budget and more. Here's what he had to say.

On changing the budget to pay for what Occupy L.A. cost the city:

"That was a challenge, and that's why I said it wasn't sustainable for [protesters] to be there forever."

"We were very lucky for a couple of reasons: One, our officers conducted themselves in a way that was a model for the nation. If I've heard once, I've heard 50 times the acknowledgment that L.A. did it differently from virtually every other city in the country. We worked with the protesters, we respected their freedom of speech, their right to protest."

"The cost that isn't calculated in other cities is going to be the lawsuit cost. There will be lawsuits as a result of some of the confrontations that we saw across the country, and here in L.A. we didn't see that kind of violence."

"This was a unique event. It had global implications, it was part of something much bigger than L.A. or Wall Street, frankly. There's a lot of frustration out there, when there's so many people out of work, when so many people are feeling like they're not able to make ends meet and they're losing that middle class dream. Frankly, I feel like we did it about as good as we could have."

On increasing LAPD officer numbers to 10,000:

"We're going to keep it at 9,963 for now. I hope one day that we'll grow our police department to a level that meets the needs of 4 million."

"I'd like to drive [crime rates] down further and we need more officers to do that. But we also need services and jobs, and we need to provide a safety net for people. We need to focus on education and giving people the skills they need to be successful, and you can't just do that with law enforcement."

On increasing funding for the Los Angeles Police Department:

"Absolutely. When we had a spate of violence in a part of the city recently, in another era the police would have said, 'We need more money for cops.' Instead, they said we need to keep hiring at the level that we're at now, but we also need more intervention workers, more folks focused on reducing gang violence.'"

On the number of gang-related murders:

"More than half the homicides are gang-related, but gang-related crimes are down. We saw a 15 percent decrease in gang-related crimes, a 9 percent decrease in gang-related shots fired and a 4.9 percent decrease in gang-related victims shot."

On why crime has continued to decline for nine years in a row:

"It has everything to do with the fact that we're growing our police department. We're focused on community policing, we collaborate with the county Sheriff's Department ... and, very importantly, our anti-gang efforts, our gang reduction and youth development program is a best practice around the country."

On the impact of budget reductions at fire stations:

"What we've seen is that we're doing more with less. I've said from the beginning that none of us want to reduce services of any kind."

"We're still facing a structural deficit of $250 million, but we haven't raised taxes, and we've, for the most part, provided services at the level that we have in the past."

"About 85 percent of [emergency] calls are for ambulances, and not for fires. So we beefed up our ambulances and cut the number of fire trucks that we have deployed on any given day."

On other statistics:

"In addition to crime overall, we also reported that at LAX there's a 27 percent decrease in crime. Our fire department, they have a 48 percent lower rate of fatalities and injuries in other major cities. We had a great year in 2011, and it's good news for 2012. But everybody wants to know what we're going to do to decrease and reduce crime even further, and that's our charge."

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