LONG BEACH — Crime, which went into welcome decline last year, rebounded with vigor during a recent 3-month period, jumping 17 1/2% across the city.
The number of residential burglaries, auto thefts, auto break-ins, murders and aggravated assaults was up significantly between July and September, compared to the same period last year, according to third-quarter crime statistics released Tuesday by the Long Beach Police Department.
The crime figures have already prompted a response from Police Chief Lawrence L. Binkley, who says he is putting a 30-unit task force under a single commander who will concentrate on combating the most popular crimes.
City officials downplayed the increase, saying it appears so large because of last year's drop in crime.
'Incredible Decline' in 1987
"We had such an incredible decline in crime last year that any increase seems to be a reason for alarm, but I don't think that's the case," Assistant City Manager John Shirey said. The city's overall crime rate fell by 7% in 1987, the first significant decrease in 7 years. The decline continued during the first few months of this year, but then turned upward again in the second quarter, when the crime rate climbed by nearly 7% compared to the same period last year.
The city's overall 1988 crime rate will probably be about the same as 1986s, Binkley said, attributing the recent jump to routine crime cycles. "We're still doing pretty well," Binkley insisted.
He noted that car theft is on the rise throughout Los Angeles County, a trend he blamed on organized rings that steal cars to strip them for parts or to sell them out of state.
Focus Police Efforts
The officers in the task force are not changing assignments, which include gang and narcotics work, Binkley said. But rather than report to their unit supervisors, they will report to a single commander who will focus their efforts on the crimes that increased the most.
Councilmen were not nearly as calm about the newest crime figures. "It's incredible. It's totally unprecedented," Councilman Warren Harwood said. "It's like your crime wave."
The 2nd District in the south-central area, which contains some of Long Beach's poorest and richest neighborhoods, experienced the greatest increase of the city's nine council districts. Crime there rose by 45%, and in the 4th District in the central and eastern portions of the city, crime increased by slightly more than 38%.
"It's certainly not good news," said 2nd District Councilman Wallace Edgerton, who said he was pleased by the chief's response. "I like what I heard from the chief."
Still, Edgerton was not optimistic about the long-term prospects of solving the city's crime problems. Comparing the war against crime to the war against cockroaches, he said, "We're going to kill some roaches and the more we kill the happier I'll be. But most of them will scatter and then we'll run over there."
The total number of crimes reported in Long Beach from July through September rose from 11,025 in the 1987 period to 12,963 in the third quarter this year. Crimes against individuals increased nearly 13%, with third-quarter murders jumping from 14 last year to 20 this year. Aggravated assaults rose from 498 to 591. Property crimes increased 24%, with residential burglaries experiencing the greatest jump: 1,051 to 1,568. Auto thefts were up 25%, bike thefts increased by 40% and grand theft rose 42%.