Los Angeles is on track to end the year with fewer than 400 homicides for the first time in nearly four decades. The Los Angeles Times calls the trend a hopeful milestone for a city long associated with gangs, drive-by shootings, and sometimes random violence. With 386 killings recorded as of yesterday, the city has experienced one-third the number of homicides it did in 1992. The last year with a comparably low figure was 1970, when Los Angeles had a million fewer residents, guns were far less prevalent, and street gangs were a much smaller part of life.
Police officials offered a wide range of theories for the drop, including the gentrification of once-tough neighborhoods, improved emergency medical care, and better policing. George Beck, 83, former deputy police chief, recalled that in the 1970s, “There wasn’t the urgency you see now with all these detectives, crime scene people and the constant tracking of crime statistics.” His son, Charlie, 54, is chief in one of the most violent parts of the city. “I don’t go there to deal with the homicide,” he said. “I go there to stop the next one.” He fiddles with his Blackberry, which updates him on crime scenes. Data from each crime are plugged into a computer system that allows officials to look for patterns and study the department’s effectiveness.