Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. (Christina House / Los Angeles…)
With the first quarter of 2013 in the books, crime in Los Angeles is continuing its decade-long decline, according to statistics released Friday.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck announced the notable gains at a press conference that served as a swan song for the mayor, who will leave office this summer after being termed out. More than anything else, the continued drop in crime has been a reliable, powerful success for the mayor to trumpet throughout his time in office.
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 this year are nine fewer than during the same time 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 spike 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 size of the 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, 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.
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