1st-Quarter Violent Crimes Down : Rash of Thefts in L.B. Drives Up Crime Rate

May 01, 1986|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Despite a slight drop in violent offenses, serious crimes reported here increased 9.1% during the first quarter of 1986, with the number of automobile burglaries up dramatically, the Police Department announced Wednesday.

Total reported offenses in 12 categories of serious crime--both violent crime against people and property crime--climbed from 7,458 to 8,138 for the quarter.

The 1,039 violent offenses against people--14 fewer incidents than last year during the same period--came as the city was experiencing increases in all categories of theft and burglary, including an outbreak of home burglaries in three middle-class neighborhoods.

Police downplayed the importance of the first-quarter statistics.

"It's very hard to draw conclusions on a quarterly basis," said Cmdr. Jerry Heath, who is responsible for the department's Neighborhood Watch program. "Burglars might start working a certain area, and there may be a rash of burglaries in one quarter and nothing for the next two."

Heath said, however, that statistics can be used to alert Neighborhood Watch groups to criminal activity. "We've got to keep (those groups) active," Heath said.

Auto Burglaries Soar

In all, property offenses were up 10.8%, to 7,099 incidents, compared to the first quarter of last year. Auto burglaries soared 32.3%, to 1,615, jumping sharply in nearly all parts of the city. Home burglaries were up 1.7%, from 1,726 to 1,756.

The reduction in violent crime included a 38.9% decrease in rape to 36 incidents in the three-month period. There were also fewer murders, down one to 17 from the first quarter of last year and reflecting a decline in gang-related killings in 1986, police said.

Serious crimes were up in seven of the nine council districts.

Only District 6 in the traditionally high-crime central city had a decrease. The home of several gangs, the district saw murders jump from 11 to 28 during 1985. But for the first quarter of 1986, there was only one homicide, as contrasted with nine during the same period last year. Home burglaries were also greatly reduced, from 317 to 209, a decline of 34%.

District 4, a low-crime section of east-central Long Beach, was the other council district registering no increase. It had exactly the same number of reported crimes in the first three months of 1986 as in the same period last year.

Biggest Jump in District 7

The biggest jump in major crime, 24%, was in District 7, which includes the west side, northern Wrigley and the southern sections of Bixby Knolls and California Heights. Violent crime was up 26%, including a rise in robberies from 52 to 76. Property crime increased 23.8% because of increases in auto burglary, petty theft and bike theft. Home burglaries, however, were down slightly, and business burglaries were off by one-third.

Three middle-class districts with longtime anti-crime Neighborhood Watch programs showed extraordinary increases in home burglaries. Those were District 8, which includes the Virginia Country Club area and northern portions of Bixby Knolls and California Heights; District 5, in northeastern Long Beach, and east-central District 4.

District 8, which had an overall major crime increase of 21.3%, the second highest in the city, saw home burglaries increase from 102 to 165.

Those first-quarter figures highlight a trend in District 8 that began last year, when it had a 28.7% increase in home burglaries, the highest in the city in 1985. The district's business burglaries were also up 58.3% for the quarter.

Councilman Edd Tuttle, who represents District 8, said burglary statistics for the last 15 months show that residents who helped form about 75 Neighborhood Watch groups in 1980 have "lost interest" in that effort.

Tuttle said he is going to re-emphasize the Neighborhood Watch and ask Police Chief Charles Ussery to assign a special burglary-suppression detail to the 8th District.

District 5 has consistently had the fewest serious crimes in the city, but quarterly figures showed a rise in home burglaries from 49 to 70, about 43%, and in business burglaries from 12 to 23, nearly 92%. Overall, reported crime was up 10%.

Though having no overall crime increase, District 4 home burglaries were up from 91 to 123, about 35%. Business burglaries were down 15%.

Statistics also showed crime increases in four other council districts-- 1, 2, 3 and 9.

In the downtown 1st District, which has the city's highest crime rate, serious offenses were up 10.5% despite a decrease in violent incidents from 270 to 249, a 7.7% decline.

The overall increase in District 2 was 7%, or 897 incidents, with a 28.8% drop in violent crime and a 12.5% increase in theft and burglary. The story was much the same in neighboring affluent District 3, where serious offenses were up 13.2%, or 830 incidents, although crimes against people were down nearly 22%. Home burglaries were up 14.1%, from 155 to 177.

In North Long Beach's District 9, the number of robberies and assaults jumped as violent crime increased 27.3% with 149 incidents this quarter. Home burglaries were down 4%, however, and the overall major crime increase was 7.4%.

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