Violent crime fell 14 percent in Los Angeles last year but homicides held steady, eluding Police Chief William Bratton’s ambitious goal of reducing killings by 20 percent, says the Los Angeles Times. There were 511 homicides in the city in 2004, a shade below 2003’s total of 516. Overall, there were 6,500 fewer violent crimes last year, including drops in rapes, robberies, and assaults.
Crime has emerged as a key issue in this spring’s mayoral race. Mayor James K. Hahn, who faces a tough reelection fight, has made the drop in crime since Bratton took office a centerpiece of his campaign. Hahn’s opponents criticize the mayor for being unable to significantly increase the size of the Police Department during his first term. Hahn and Bratton had backed a half-cent countywide sales tax on November’s ballot to raise money for more officers, but voters rejected it. Bratton expressed disappointment that homicides didn’t decline further, but said he believed the overall crime drop showed that Los Angeles is getting safer. Los Angeles’ flat homicide numbers contrasted with other large cities. Nationwide, slayings in other cities with more than 1 million residents were down nearly 9 percent as of midyear, the FBI says.