The LAPD investigates an officer-involved shooting in March in Echo Park.… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
With the first quarter of 2013 in the books, crime in Los Angeles has so far continued its decade-long decline, according to statistics released Friday.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck announced the early but notable improvement at a press conference that served as a swan song for the mayor, who will leave office this summer after being termed out. Throughout what is widely considered an otherwise uneven eight years in office, the steady drop in crime is a triumph that Villaraigosa has repeatedly touted.
Through the end of March, overall violent crime was down nearly 14% compared with the same period last year — a drop of 593 incidents, the city figures showed. Property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, were down about 7% for the same period.
The 66 homicides recorded so far this year are nine fewer than during the same period in 2012. If that pace holds, the city would finish 2013 well below last year's historic low of 298 killings.
Because crime can surge and fall significantly from month to month, it is not possible to know whether the city will end the year below last year's totals.
Villaraigosa, who has made hiring police officers a centerpiece of his administration, did not shy away from calling on the two candidates vying to replace him, city Controller Wendy Greuel and City Council member Eric Garcetti, to maintain the police force at its current size.
"If you want to be mayor of Los Angeles, you're going to have to continue to hire police," he said.
Beck highlighted the significant declines in gang-related killings and other crimes — a result, he said, of close cooperation between his department and the city's aggressive anti-gang programs that, among other things, train former gang members to intervene between rival gangs and calm tensions. The 29 gang-related homicides so far this year mark a nearly 30% decline from the same period last year. More notable, Beck said, is that it is 58 fewer than in the first quarter of 2005 — the year Villaraigosa took office.
"There is no other big city in America that can make these claims. I invite any of you to go to Chicago, go to New York, go to Houston … and see if you can find a replication of this effort. You cannot," Beck said.