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Feeling Safer? Violent Crimes Down Overall

Latest FBI statistics, for 2004, are good news for most major Southland cities, although the homicide rate in Los Angeles held steady.

June 09, 2005|Andrew Wang | Times Staff Writer

When the FBI released preliminary figures this week from its annual crime statistics report, most major cities in Southern California showed drops in violent crime in 2004, though some of Orange County's largest cities showed significant increases.

The statistics, built on crime reports from 12,715 local, county and state law enforcement agencies across the nation, revealed that:

* In Southern California, violent crime decreased in 70% of the cities with populations greater than 100,000, compared with 52% of such cities nationally. Two Southern California cities, Torrance and Glendale, ranked second and fourth nationally in percentage decrease of violent crime for the year.

* Violent crimes in the city of Los Angeles fell to 42,786, down more than 6,000 incidents from 2003. The 12% drop was the 10th best in the state out of 60 cities with populations greater than 100,000 and more than double the national rate for cities with more than 1 million people, which saw such incidents fall by an average of 5.4%. The overall decrease in violent crime for the nation was 1.7%.

Lt. Mark Olvera of the Los Angeles Police Department's Office of Operations attributed the drop in violent crimes to the advent of Compstat, a computerized system that tracks and maps criminal activity and allows police officers to target their efforts in crime-prone areas.

He also pointed to Chief William J. Bratton's "10-50" plan, which focuses department resources on the top 10% of violent criminals, believed responsible for 50% of all crimes.

"We're really targeting those individuals who are causing a disproportionate number of crimes," Olvera said.

* The homicide rate in Los Angeles, however, remained almost unchanged at 518, a slight uptick from 515 the previous year.

This ran against the national trend for the year, during which homicides dropped by 3.6%, the first decrease since 1999. Homicides in cities of 1 million people or more dropped 7.1%, topped by Chicago's decline of 25%, the report stated.

* In Los Angeles County, four of 16 cities above the 100,000 population mark -- Long Beach, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and El Monte -- recorded increases in violent crime.

* Irvine in Orange County recorded the lowest violent crime of any city in the nation with a population of at least 100,000. Glendale in Los Angeles County ranked seventh.

And in Ventura County, Thousand Oaks ranked sixth while perennial rival for safe-city bragging rights Simi Valley was 10th.

* In Orange County, four of the eight largest cities -- Santa Ana, Anaheim, Huntington Beach and Fullerton -- showed rises in violent crime. Anaheim's violent crimes rose to 1,530 incidents from 1,319 in 2003, a 16% gain.

Five of the eight saw increases in homicides. Santa Ana had the biggest increase in absolute terms, from 17 in 2003 to 25 in 2004, a 47% bump.

* In Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties combined, eight out of 10 cities with more than 100,000 people showed drops in violent crime in 2004. The same number saw no change or decreases in homicides last year.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Report considers as violent crimes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, larceny and car theft. Arson is classified separately.

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Violence in Southland Cities

Violent crime declined across most of Southern California in 2004, according to a preliminary FBI report covering cities of 100,000 or more. Los Angeles County had the largest decreases, but in Orange County the change was uneven, with increases in half the cities. California cities also did well nationally, with four leading the top 10 in violent crime decreases.

National violent crime:

*--* Percent decrease Rank City 2003-04

1. Berkeley -39.8 2. Torrance -33.1 3. Antioch, Calif. -26.2 4. Glendale -25.6 5. Edison Township, N.J. -24.6 6. Garland, Texas -23.7 7. Jackson, Miss. -22.8 8. Norwalk -20.7 9. Corpus Christi, Texas -18.9 10. Pueblo, Colo. -18.5 *--*

Southern California violent crime in 2004:

*--* Violent So. Violent Percent crimes per Calif. City Homicides crimes change 100,000 rank

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