LONG BEACH — Reported crime rose by 12.8% in 1986, the largest annual increase in the past five years, according to police statistics.
Major crime had gone up just 0.1% in 1985 and had actually decreased the previous three years, so the 12.8% increase recorded in 1986 is a major concern, Mayor Ernie Kell said.
Kell said the most recent statistics will be an important consideration when the City Council prepares the city budget in the next few weeks. The council will consider increasing the size of the 640-member Police Department or redeploying its officers to get more of them on the street, Kell said.
"The No. 1 priority in the city is to bring crime down to where it should be," Kell said in an interview this week. "People have to feel safe where they have to live."
Big Jump in Assaults
According to the 1986 statistics, the largest increases were reported in aggravated assault, petty theft, auto theft and robbery.
The 25% increase in aggravated assaults is largely attributable to a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1, 1986, said Sgt. Conrad Nutzmann, a police spokesman. The law, designed to protect victims of domestic violence, made it mandatory for all police officers to file crime reports when investigating domestic violence. Previously, it was up to police discretion whether to file reports, Nutzmann said.
Other large increases were reported in petty theft, which increased nearly 21%, auto theft, which jumped by 17%, and robbery, which jumped by 15%.
Among the nine City Council districts, the largest increase was in the 9th District in North Long Beach, where overall crime rose more than 19%, including a 62% increase in aggravated assault and a 54% increase in robbery.
The next highest increase was reported in the central-city 6th District, where overall crime jumped by nearly 18%, including a 38% increase in commercial burglaries and an increase of nearly 26% in auto thefts.
Murders, Rapes Declined
While overall crime increased last year, the number of murders and rapes declined. In 1986, 63 persons were murdered in the city, compared to 64 in 1985. The 6th Council District had the highest number of murders in 1986 with 20.
The number of rapes declined by 5%, from 230 to 218. The largest number of rapes was reported in the downtown 1st District, with 53. Also decreasing last year was arson, which dropped 25%, from 143 in 1985 to 107 in 1986.
Long Beach is in the process of selecting a new police chief. Charles B. Ussery retired in November, and a search for a replacement is being conducted by City Manager-designate James C. Hankla.
Council member Warren Harwood, whose 9th District had the highest crime statistics, said that addressing the "intolerably high numbers" should be the first priority of the new police chief. "Business as usual isn't going to cut it anymore," Harwood said.
Council member Ray Grabinski, whose 7th District had a 15.2% crime increase last year, said that "people are willing to pay for a safe community" by hiring more police officers.
Grabinski said residents are already paying for increased crime through higher insurance rates and lower property values.
He said he believes that residents want more officers on patrol. He said the department has approximately the same number of officers on the streets now as it had 10 years ago. The department has approximately 400 patrol officers.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Abram Weisbrot said that drugs, especially cocaine, are responsible for much of the city's increased crime.
Weisbrot, who works in the district attorney's Long Beach office, said that felony arrests for possession of cocaine more than doubled last year. In 1986, police arrested 1,617 persons for possession of cocaine and/or heroin, compared to 701 arrests for the same offenses in 1985, Weisbrot said. Of those drug arrests, more than 90% involved cocaine, Weisbrot said.
The increased arrest totals are in part due to a police crackdown on drug-related crimes, Weisbrot said. In September and October, a special drug task force swept through the city making more than 900 arrests.
LONG BEACH REPORTED CRIME, 1963-1986 Major crimes showed a sharp increase in 1986. Before that, there was a general increase in crime over two decades leading to the previous peak in 1981. That was followed by a modest decline and leveling off.
Year Murder Rape Assault Robbery Burglary Theft Total 1963 13 96 379 611 4,179 8,502 13,780 1970 29 134 572 1,194 6,471 15,063 23,463 1976 71 200 965 1,700 9,386 13,932 26,254 1981 74 306 1,419 2,923 10,000 17,804 32,535 1984 44 241 1,369 2,595 7,897 18,193 30,340 1985 64 230 1,432 2,409 8,289 17,951 30,378 1986 63 218 1,791 2,775 8,796 20,506 34,151
Source: Long Beach Police Department. Years previous to 1984 were selected at random. Annual totals include manslaughter, which is not listed separately. REPORTED CRIME BY COUNCIL DISTRICT