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Villaraigosa, Beck praise 9% drop in major crimes during 2009, part of a seven-year trend

January 6, 2010 | 12:32 pm
With 2009’s end-of-year crime statistics complete, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other officials gathered Tuesday to tout another year of falling crime rates.

As The Times reported last week, serious violent and property-related crime in the city dropped about 9% compared to the previous year. The declines continued a seven-year trend that includes a 17% drop since Villaraigosa took office four years ago. 

Homicides in Los Angeles fell by 69 to 314 – the lowest since 1967.  Police and prevention specialists also made inroads in gang-related crime, which dropped by 11%.

Unlike the early 1990s, when killings peaked in the city amid the crack cocaine epidemic with more than 1,000 homicides each year, the dramatic decline in bloodshed has meant a more manageable workload for detectives, Beck said. That, in turn, he said, led to the department making an arrest or otherwise closing 83% of its homicide cases in 2009 – far above the national average.

The mayor and Beck, who were joined by City Council President Eric Garcetti, Councilman Dennis Zine and Police Commission President John Mack, struck familiar notes of praise and prodding for the council. The council has backed the mayor’s long-running push to hire more cops, but has grown increasingly resistant to the idea amid the city’s worsening fiscal crisis. 

Since taking the LAPD’s top job in November, Beck has warned that an erosion of the department ranks would jeopardize the LAPD’s ability to continue the aggressive crime-fighting strategies and cooperation with community groups he credits with ongoing gains.

“It is inexplicable why these crime numbers are so good except for one thing: cops count, effective policing matters,” he said.  “That’s what makes these numbers what they are.”

Villaraigosa said the ongoing improvements in safety have been an important factor in helping to salvage the city’s tourism industry amid a dire fiscal crisis. “Even in these difficult times, people come here, in no small part, because it’s safe,” he said.

Beck declined to offer a projection for crime rates in 2010, saying he and his command staff would do so in coming weeks.  Placing pressure squarely on the shoulders of the City Council, which holds the city’s purse strings, Beck said another year of falling crime was possible if the department is “properly staffed and properly funded.”

--Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters

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