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Summer fun linked to crime drop

Villaraigosa credits a new seasonal program at eight L.A. parks with a decrease in violence.

September 09, 2008|Phil Willon | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday credited a new summertime anti-gang program, which included special community events and extended nighttime hours at eight city parks, with a measurable drop in crime in some of the city's most violent neighborhoods.

Between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, the Summer Night Lights program offered special movie nights and other youth- and family-oriented events until midnight four nights a week, during peak time for gang activity and other juvenile-related crime.

The events were held at parks in communities hit hardest by gang activity, including Baldwin Village, Boyle Heights and Ramona Gardens, and targeted at-risk youth.

"Regardless of where you live, the color of your skin, we all want pretty much the same thing. We want to live, work and play in a safe community free of gang violence," Villaraigosa said at a news conference Monday at the city's Jim Gilliam Park in Baldwin Village.

The mayor emphasized that the drop in crime came during the summer months, when the school break would usually lead to an uptick of criminal activity.

According to the mayor's office, the communities surrounding the eight parks involved in Summer Night Lights had a 17% drop in violent crime during the summer, compared with the year before. Homicides were down by 86%, and the community surrounding Jim Gilliam Park had no killings, compared with six during the same period last year.

Citywide, Los Angeles has seen an overall drop in crime and during the summer had the fewest number of homicides in more than four decades. From June through August, there were 84 homicides in Los Angeles, the lowest number since 1967 when there were 79 during the same period.

Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton credited the drop to their efforts to hire hundreds of additional police officers and to community and anti-gang programs.

"It was an extraordinary summer. Extraordinary in the sense of the level of safety that the city . . . experienced," Bratton said. "Safety that did not just happen by happenstance, but I think was a direct result of a lot of things coming together at the right time."


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