Homicides have increased this year in unincorporated area and smaller municipalities around Los Angeles, even as killings have decreased within the city limits, the Los Angeles Times says. Many areas affected share ethnic and economic characteristics, as well as the same gang feuds.
Officials emphasized that Los Angeles Police Department officer strength increased while the number of sheriff’s deputies declined. They argue that the staffing differences support the idea that the number of police officers has a direct impact on violence. The Times say, however, that some LAPD divisions with larger patrol forces are reporting about the same homicide totals as last year.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office counted 729 homicides in 2003 as of last week. That is about 12 percent lower than last year. Patterns vary from place to place. Homicides in the city were down 22 percent from last year, but in unincorporated areas and cities patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, homicides rose 11 percent.
County Sheriff Lee Baca said his department has been hard-hit by cuts in federal community policing grants. The program spent up to $1 billion per year at its peak, but it has been reduced sharply under President Bush, as focus has shifted to homeland security programs. The cuts stripped the Sheriff’s Department of 180 federally funded positions last year, and a youth intervention program.