Los Angeles led the nation in homicides last year, but killings reported this year have fallen by nearly a quarter, the Los Angeles Times reports. Police Chief William Bratton has largely met his goal since taking over the Los Angeles Police Department 15 months ago: More arrests, less violent. The 2003 L.A. homicide total is likely to be under 500, almost 150 under last year and the lowest number since 1999. Gun violence is down by a double-digit percentage. Reported shootings had fallen by more than 1,200 compared to the same period in 2002.
The L.A. decline contrasts with in other cities. Nationwide, homicides in cities with more than 1 million population were up 6% as of midyear. “The only thing we have to be cautious about is that the murder rate is still too high,” said UCLA homicide expert Eric Monkkonen. “But it’s going in the right direction, thankfully.”
Bratton attributed the crime reduction to a number of actions, including an police leadership shakeup that has put more aggressive commanders in charge. “Cops are back in the streets much more assertively,” he told the Times. In areas where homicide rates are high, anti-gang and anti-narcotics units are making more arrests – in some areas more than twice as many as last year, he said. There is a price for concentrating resources in neighborhoods with the worst crime: The average time for an officer to respond to a call exceeds 12 minutes in some places. Police response times have been increasing for three years despite growth in the number of officers.
Former Police Chief Bernard Parks, now a city councilman, will reserve judgment until he sees the homicide numbers continue to fall toward the low point reached under his command in 1998 and 1999. “Crime is something that ebbs and flows,” Parks said. “If you take credit for the decrease this year, you have to take credit for the increase last year.”