The number of homicides in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's patrol areas fell to its lowest level since 1970 with 166 killings in 2012, Sheriff Lee Baca announced Wednesday.
The number of killings was four less than in 2011, a 2.3% drop. But serious crime increased 4.2% and all types of crime jumped 3%.
Violent crime -- rape, robbery, aggravated assaults and murder -- climbed 3.5% from 2011. Property crimes across the sheriff's areas jumped 4.3%.
"This is real historic," Baca said, referring to the low homicide rate, during a news conference at sheriff's headquarters in Monterey Park.
He said the decline in homicides makes for a positive picture despite a slight upturn in so-called "Part 1" serious crime.
"We are feeling positive despite the slight increase," he said.
Baca said gangs remain the most serious issue, as was underscored by an AK-47 gun battle between rival gangs Tuesday deputies came upon.
Because the Sheriff's Department patrols such a vast territory, there was a great deal of disparity in the numbers. The Crescenta Valley station saw a 4.3% drop in serious crimes; the Temple City and Compton stations also reported 5% declines.
But the Avalon station on Catalina Island experienced a 17% jump in serious crime. Serious crime climbed 10.9% in West Hollywood, 9.3% in the Carson area and 8.5% in Lancaster when compared to 2011.
The number of deputy-involved shootings rose from 37 in 2011 to 49 in 2012, but most of the increase came from non-hit shootings.
The Century station in Lynwood saw its number of homicides decline from 35 to 25.
The department's homicide bureau reported overall gang homicides rose 10.5% compared to 2011, when it includes killings it investigated in other non sheriff's area cities.