While homicides fell significantly, serious crime in the dozens of communities patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department rose 4 percent overall in 2007, says the Los Angeles Times. Sheriff Lee Baca warned that a worsening economy could present a tough crime picture for 2008. An increase in robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, and other property crimes drove the crime uptick. The department protects about 3 million people. Baca’s concerns are borne out by Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate, which stood at 5.3 percent in November, nearly 1 percent higher than the same month a year before. It was the largest year-to-year increase since 2002.
Serious crime dropped 4.9 percent on neighboring turf patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department, which also recorded its fewest homicides — 392 — in 37 years. Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton differed sharply from Baca in his analysis of crime. “I will take them all on, the economists, the criminologists, all of these people who give you the baloney,” Bratton said. “What makes the difference is cops focused on crime.” USC Criminologist Malcolm Klein said Bratton is mistaken in deriding socioeconomic factors but said it’s overly simplistic to draw a direct connection between unemployment and the crime rate. Another criminologist, George Tita of Universite of California Irvine, said, “It’s hard to believe the economy in the county areas is any different than in neighboring Los Angeles. The reality is we don’t know what . makes crime numbers go up and down.”