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VALLEYWIDE : Police Official Cites 'Malaise' of Fear


Despite a decrease of nearly 5% in overall crime in the San Fernando Valley so far this year, a growing number of residents appear to be suffering from a "crime-related malaise" that has heightened their fear, according to the Valley's chief law enforcement officer.

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker, speaking before a meeting of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., said that the latest crime statistics reveal a 4.7% drop in street-related crime through May 14, compared to the same period last year.

During the past several months, however, Kroeker said he has heard more Valley residents than ever express their concerns at community forums on crime such as the one held Thursday night at the Bernardi Multipurpose Center in Van Nuys.

"I'm talking about a crime-related malaise," Kroeker said. "The fear that's there is a fear of being a victim. I've been doing this for two years, and I have seen people almost clutch me and say: 'I'm scared to death. I'm getting out of L.A.' The fact is, our crime picture is not that bad."

Valleywide, there have been decreases of 6.4% in robberies, 5% in burglaries, 3.6% in thefts or burglaries from vehicles, a 5% decrease in auto theft, and one less homicide at the same point last year, from 52 to 51.

Kroeker blamed the anxiety on recent high-publicity crimes that hit close to home, such as the fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman at an automatic teller machine and the carjacking and murder of a Chatsworth man at a gas station, both of which occurred in March.

"It sets up a scenario that they instantly move to by way of understanding and empathy," Kroeker said. "The next step is, 'I'm next.' "

In fact, Kroeker pointed out, the number of robberies reported by the Devonshire Division--which patrols the Chatsworth area--is down 25%, from 553 to 417.

Kroeker said he continues to hear calls for more police. Today more than 1,500 police officers serve 1.5 million Valley residents, Kroeker said.

"That's what I'm picking up from people," Kroeker said. "They just want to see more cops."

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