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L.B. Crime Rate Rises Slightly

January 31, 1985|ERIC BAILEY | Times Staff Writer

Despite hefty reductions in the number of reported homicides and robberies, the overall reported crime rate in Long Beach in 1984 edged up slightly over the previous year, city officials have announced.

The number of crimes reported in the city during 1984 increased 1.7% compared to 1983, pushed upward by sharp jumps in reported auto burglaries and bicycle thefts.

But the homicide rate plummeted by 32.3%, from 65 deaths in 1983 to 44 this year, while reported robbery dropped off by 16.4%, down to 2,595 from 3,106 in 1983. Assaults rose 7.3%, with 1,369 incidents in 1984 compared to 1,275 the year before. Rapes, however, fell by 1.6%, down from 245 in 1983 to 241 in 1984.

Signal Hill Assaults More Than Double

Reported crimes in Signal Hill, which has about 7,000 residents, increased 16%, from 657 to 762, according to Police Department statistics.

The biggest jump in reported crimes in Signal Hill involved assaults, which increased 134%, from 44 to 103. Theft increased nearly 20%, from 269 to 322. The only significant drop was in the number of auto thefts, which fell from 81 in 1983 to 69 in 1984.

Chief Michael McCrary of the Signal Hill Police Department attributed the rise in assaults to increased reporting of that crime.

"In the past we didn't document an assault if the victim didn't want to report it," McCrary said. "Now we have to document all calls that come in on any disturbance or fight."

In Long Beach, which has a population of about 380,000, Deputy Police Chief William Ellis said police officials "are pleased, overall, with their department's ability to maintain crime at a steady level."

However, Ellis said police are worried about the sharp rise in auto burglaries, which jumped 11.5%, up from 4,667 in 1983 to 5,207 in 1984.

"That's a concern to us," Ellis said. "As we see an increase in the number of expensive vehicles in the city, we're seeing an upturn in the amount of equipment that is stolen."

Those burglaries generally involve the theft of car stereos or personal belongings left in an unattended vehicle, he said. But while auto burglaries rose, thefts of vehicles dropped slightly, down 1% from 4,210 in 1983 to 4,164 in 1984.

However, commercial burglary dropped by 3.1%, down from 1,501 in 1983 to 1,454 in 1984, and residential burglaries increased only slightly, with 6,443 reported burglaries in 1984 compared to 6,351 the year before, a 1.4% rise.

Reported bicycle thefts rose 14.5%, from 1,939 in 1983 to 2,222 in 1984.

Ellis said bicycle thefts have been a bothersome problem for police, accounting for more than $400,000 in stolen property in 1984. He said many of the thefts could have been prevented if riders had locked their bicycles or made sure an identification number was etched on the frame and recorded by police, Ellis said.

Police see the increases in auto and home burglaries, bicycle thefts and other crimes involving the loss of property as a spinoff of proliferating illegal drug trade in the city, Ellis said. Drug users often resort to crime as a way of obtaining cash to purchase narcotics, Ellis said.

"A large percentage of the property crimes and some of the crimes against people are a direct result of narcotics trafficking," he said.

Because of that, the department will during the coming year put an "increased emphasis" on the investigation of narcotics crimes, which Ellis called "a very serious problem." Any increases in manpower for the department's narcotics squad, however, will wait until after the city budget is approved in June, Ellis said.

The department has increased the use of anti-truancy patrols, reasoning that many daytime burglaries and other crimes are committed by school-age children.

Grand theft, which involves the theft of items with a value of more than $400, remained stable. Petty theft, meanwhile, dropped by 2.7%, from 4,346 in 1983 to 4,226 in 1984.

Police were particularly pleased by the sharp reduction in robberies, which Ellis attributed to increased efforts by uniformed officers to "maintain a high-visibility presence" in areas traditionally troubled by street crime.

Business Watch Cited

That effort was most effective during the Summer Olympics, when large numbers of officers were deployed around the four event sites in Long Beach.

The reduction in commercial burglaries, meanwhile, may have come in part because businesses are increasingly participating in the department's Business Watch program, Ellis said. That program, which began in 1983 and has 668 participating businesses, encourages firms to maintain contact with neighboring businesses and to take security precautions such as installing better locks and limiting entry routes for thieves.

Ellis said the nearly one-third drop in homicides was significant, but could not be directly attributed to any work done by the police.

"Murder is a difficult crime for police to have any marked impact on," he said. "Generally, it's a crime of passion involving people who know each other. You can't enforce against it."

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