Homicides in Los Angeles have sharply increased in the first two months of this year, reversing nearly five years of decline and posing a puzzling challenge for Police Chief William Bratton, reports the Los Angeles Times. “I take responsibility when it goes down, I take responsibility when it goes up,” Bratton said. The 74 killings so far in 2008 mark a 27 percent increase compared with the same period last year. The jump in homicides has included several high-profile killings, creating a perception of escalating violence.
Experts and police officials cautioned that it is too early to conclude whether the increase is a spike or the beginning of an extended rise, but Bratton and his top commanders have been flummoxed by the random, unrelated nature of the killings. Several of the deaths occurred during domestic fights or similar incidents that have no common factor linking them, making it difficult to fashion a comprehensive response. Further perplexing officers is that the rising homicide rate is set against a 5.1 percent decline in violent crime overall that includes a more than 2 percent drop in rapes and aggravated assaults, as well as a 25 percent drop in gang-related homicides. Gang killings can often account for upticks in the rate. Says Bratton: “It is just a lot of the good old-fashioned homicides — people killing each other out of passion or during the commission of a crime.”