Los Angeles’s Rampart police division area, once home to the city’s densest murder cluster, has undergone a transformation so broad that for the last two years, homicides per capita have fallen to the citywide average, reports the Los Angeles Times. Although a blue ribbon report credited the Los Angeles Police Department for the turnaround, Rampart’s crime has been falling in spurts for 15 years, with the most dramatic shift in the mid-1990s, before Chief William Bratton took over.
The change is striking because a high percentage of residents are poor minorities in crowded and unforgiving circumstances – conditions linked to large homicide figures elsewhere. Bratton can take credit for “broken windows” policing in MacArthur Park and the installation of surveillance cameras, but the Times says the “broader story of Rampart is one of intercontinental migrations, wars, real estate booms and stock market crashes.” The protagonists include tamale vendors and Orange County businessmen, draft dodgers and dry cleaners, big companies, and small-time investors. Rampart’s history crystallizes just how much has changed in Los Angeles in the years since a corrupt gang officer made its name notorious. It lays bare the way chance and economics interact with police.