Crime within the Los Angeles city limits has fallen for the 11th straight year, according to statistics released Monday by the LAPD. The numbers show that the per capita crime rate is the lowest its been since the 1950s and 1960s.
Overall, crime in all major categories was down last year by 5.2 percent citywide when compared to 2012. Violent crime (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) fell by 12 percent. Property crime (burglary, auto theft, larceny) ticked down 4 percent. There were 251 homicides last year; that’s 48 fewer than in 2012.
“Some say in a recession we couldn’t drive crime down. Some say crime is just going down naturally anywhere in the country. These things are not true,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “It takes dedicated and very precise policing, a larger public safety strategy, to be able to each year do this.”
Garcetti was partly talking about the LAPD’s decade long use of COMPSTAT, short for computer statistics, which collects and maps out crime data by specific areas and time of day. LAPD patrol supervisors closely track the trends to make decisions on how to deploy officers and address trouble spots.
Major metropolitan police departments like New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Miami also use COMPSTAT.
“I do think that policing has gotten smarter,” said George Tita, associate professor of criminology at the University of Irvine while on KPCC's AirTalk. He said LAPD’s Valley Bureau has been using predictive policing to figure out where best to use officers.
All four of LAPD's bureaus – from the San Fernando Valley to South LA to the central part of the city to LAPD’s West Bureau – have experienced a decline in crime in the areas they patrol.
“It’s because of smart data-driven policing. It’s because LAPD now works with communities, not against them,” Garcetti said. “And it’s because we are as focused on prevention and intervention as we are on enforcement.”
The phrase “community policing” was used plenty of times during Monday’s news conference. Police Chief Charlie Beck said Los Angeles residents have had a long, troubled history with its police department. But he felt the current history being made building better communities with residents.
“A community that watches after each other,” Beck said. “That’s how you reduce crime.”
Beck credited community policing for the 17.6 percent drop last year in gang-related crime in Los Angeles. He said the LAPD doesn’t only rely on policing and enforcement, but works with interventionists to control rumors and prevent retaliations.
“Sometimes over policing makes gang identity stronger,” he said. “You have to watch how you police it. We have just the right prescription in Los Angeles right now.”
Over the last five years, the city has experienced a 47.9 percent drop in gang crime, a decline Beck said he was most proud of. Historically, Los Angeles and Chicago have been seen as the street gang hotspot of the nation – now people are coming to L.A. to see how we’ve addressed it, he said.
Though all LAPD bureaus have recorded drops in crime rates, the police chief said he’d like to see crime in South and Central Bureaus fall even more. Mayor Garcetti said though fewer people were murdered last year: “each one of those 251 murders, homicides, is a person, a family, a community.”