After a nearly 40 percent Los Angeles homicide increase in the first 2 1/2 months of this year, the number has dropped dramatically in recent weeks to a level that is only slightly above last year’s homicide rate, reports the Los Angeles Times. There were 102 homicides as of yesterday, compared with 95 for the same period in 2007. Police officials attributed the recent decline largely to extra patrol officers assigned to problem areas. Police activity was so heavy in some areas that an undercover detective was stopped twice and questioned by uniformed officers. Last year, the homicide rate was the lowest in four decades.
Because many of the recent deaths captured the public’s attention, police say they are battling a perception among residents that violence on the streets is out of control. Despite the surge in killings, violent crime overall is down 3 percent throughout the city, and property crimes have declined 7 percent. Malcolm Klein, a University of Southern California expert on gangs and crime, said crime statistics go in cycles, and no one should read too much into short snapshots. “They go up, and they go down,” he said. “These statistics are not very stable.” Klein said that what leads to short-term changes in crime patterns is a matter of debate: “It is almost impossible to say what causes it. There are multiple causes, with one cause leading at one time and another cause at another time.”