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Compton Sees a Dramatic Dip in Major Crime in 1990 : Law enforcement: An increased police presence is credited for the 6%-9% decrease. Only robbery and aggravated assault were up.

February 10, 1991|MICHELE FUETSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COMPTON — A Police Department reorganization that includes such innovations as having all high-ranking officers and detectives don their uniforms one day a month to help patrol the streets is being credited with causing a drop in crime here.

For the first time in six years, the number of murders--which doubled between 1984 and 1989--has dropped. There were 84 homicides in 1989 and 78 in 1990.

Overall, major crimes dropped 9.62% last year, according to figures that the Compton Police Department supplied to the FBI. Under a different reporting system used by the State of California's Bureau of Criminal Statistics, the city has experienced a 6.77% drop in major crimes, the Compton department said. Statistics for the two agencies differ because the federal government includes more crime categories in its reporting system than does the state.

Terry R. Ebert, who in June was promoted from commander to chief of police to replace Ivory Webb, who retired, attributed the drop in crime to "a combination of things."

"We did put more people on the street," Ebert said. "We got more active (in solving) some of these gang homicides . . . and we've doubled our reserves."

The reserve unit has gone from 19 to about 40 people in six months. Recruiting and training were stepped up and reserves, who used to be largely volunteers, are now paid $10 an hour after they work their first 16 hours a month free.

Reserve officers are being used as the second person in patrol cars. That allows the department to have as many as 22 officers on the street on a Saturday night, compared to the 13 to 15 it used to deploy, said Police Cmdr. R.E. Allen, who oversees uniformed services, including patrol.

"Our presence on the street is more visible and is acting as a deterrent," Allen said. "What we say in the department is (we have a) more creative and innovative deployment of human resources."

Ebert has also made other changes. Two of the department's top gang specialists have been assigned to work with homicide detectives on all gang-murder cases. That has resulted in more arrests in such cases and taken gang hit men off the streets, said Ebert and Allen.

"Our actual number of gang homicides ran about the same number as (1989)," Ebert said. "But they were all in the first half of the year. About the middle of the year, it began to fall down."

Overall, the bulk of the city's murders last year occurred in the first six months. From January through June there were 47 murders. From July to December there were 31.

Every category of crime went down except robbery and aggravated assault. Robberies were up to 1,227, compared to 1,192 in 1989.

In the assault category, Ebert said, the numbers are up because reporting agencies are now asking that all cases of domestic violence be classified as aggravated assaults. That caused the number to rise from 1,449 in 1989 to 1,718 in 1990, he said.

Rapes were down from 127 in 1989 to 115 in 1990, according to the department. Auto thefts went down from 1,478 to 1,274, and burglaries dropped from 2,038 in 1989 to 1,570 last year.

City officials, struggling to govern a city that has severe financial problems and a widespread reputation for violent crime, were buoyed by the news that crime had dropped.

Council member Maxcy D. Filer said the drop is partly because the police department has been working more closely with city block clubs--which act as neighborhood watch organizations. And the block clubs, Filer said, have become much more active in reporting criminal activity in their neighborhoods.

Councilwoman Bernice Woods credited Ebert with improving the department and said that putting more officers on patrol has increased visibility and made response time shorter.

Putting more officers on the street was the most important change Ebert made last year, said Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore. "People ought to be able to see a patrol car (in their neighborhood) at least once on every shift," Moore said.

She earned the enmity of many officers and their superiors when she was elected to the council 18 months ago. She was highly critical of the department's top brass, saying that it was not responsive to residents' needs and was top-heavy with administrative staff.

Last year, the council offered early retirements to some department veterans. In reorganizing, Ebert lowered the overall number of administrators. For example, where there used to be four commanders in addition to the chief, there are now only two commanders.

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