Crime in Los Angeles and many other parts of Southern California fell in 2008 for the sixth consecutive year, challenging the widely held theory that crime rises at times of economic tumult, reports the Los Angeles Times. The continued decline comes even as other major American cities, including New York and Chicago, have seen increases in some crimes, notably homicides. Violent crimes and crimes involving thefts in Los Angeles were down about 2.5 percent through Saturday compared with the same period of 2007.
Throughout the region, crime was generally down or stagnant. The numbers are striking because some law enforcement officials — notably Sheriff Lee Baca — had predicted that the ailing economy would probably result in crime increases, particularly in struggling neighborhoods where unemployment was on the rise. Unemployment in Los Angeles County is now near 9 percent. Baca and other law enforcement officials said it still may just be a matter of time. “Expectation of having more crime occur in dire economic times is practical expectation that has been evident from other cycles of depressed times,” Baca said. “We aren’t experiencing real hard economic times yet. In my opinion we have to prepare ourselves that things could get worse.” The last time the U.S. economy faltered over a prolonged period, Los Angeles fared badly. In 1991 and 1992, crime soared to levels roughly three times the current figures. Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton has attributed his department’s success largely to “putting cops on the dots,” referring to the department’s strategy of closely tracking and dissecting crimes with computerized mapping systems and deploying officers accordingly. He said he expects crime to fall further in 2009 as several hundred new officers join the force.