The Latest | Southern California breaking news and trends
Crime & Justice

LAPD Chief: Los Angeles the safest big city in the country

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on November 7, 2009.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on November 7, 2009.
Toby Canham/Getty Images

There are four cities in the United States with at least 2 million residents, and according to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles is the safest of them all. "It hasn't always been like that," Beck said at a press conference Wednesday. "If you go back before the mayor's tenure, we would not have made the top three."

If current trends hold, 2012 will be the tenth year in a row that crime numbers in Los Angeles have gone down. And according to statistics released today by LAPD, crime has dropped dramatically since 2005: homicide is down 41 percent, rape is down 26 percent, robbery 33 percent, and aggravated assaults 48 percent. 

Beck said that street gangs, which have traditionally been responsible for the majority of L.A.'s violent crime, have also calmed down. Gang-related crimes are down 39 percent from 2005 levels, and 16 percent from last year. 

"Los Angeles literally invented the street gang," Beck told KPCC. "There are two major cities in the United States that export gangs to the rest of the world. They're Chicago and L.A. And L.A. through its long, many, many years of awful experiences, has been able to develop strategies that work."

Beck attributed the change to the police department's successful supression efforts, as well as partnerships with community organizations that have helped LAPD branch out from pure supression to community involvement. Particularly, he praised Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's GRYD program, which sends former gang members into neighborhoods to keep the peace and dispell rumors when gang activity heats up.

Meanwhile, Villaraigosa said maintaining staffing levels at LAPD has been part of why the city's crime has steadily dropped. He said that as he looks towards the financial status of the city in September, police will remain insulated from cuts.

Despite drops elsewhere in the city, a few areas are experiencing higher crime so far than last year. Homicides are up 6 percent over last year in the Southern Bureau, 52 percent in the Valley Bureau, and 54 percent in the Western Bureau. Rape is up 46 percent in the Southern Bureau. And pockets of the city are experiencing a slight uptick in property crimes. 

Chief Beck said he was disappointed that property crimes haven't dropped as dramatically as he'd hoped, and blamed prison realignment in part for the fact. Most of those who shifted to county supervision under prison realignment are property crime offenders, and Beck said it'd be foolish to think that hadn't contributed to the rise in property crime in some areas. 

Read more: Ask the Chief on KPCC's Patt Morrison Show