Compton, California, with just 100,000 people, has developed an outsize but deserved reputation as a national epicenter of gang violence. Today, says the Los Angeles Times, there are 65 gangs jammed into 10 square miles. It came as something of a surprise when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said the city’s homicide total last year was 38, the lowest number in at least 25 years and a 50 percent drop since 2005.
Gang-related aggravated assaults have fallen too, nearly 25 percent over four years — “dramatic indicators,” Sheriff Lee Baca said, “that we are doing the right thing.” Still, Compton, while widely viewed as a success story, is one of the few L.A.-area communities where crime is rising. Both the city and county of Los Angeles saw declines in major crimes last year; in Compton, such crimes rose by 13 percent in the same period, primarily property offenses. In a sense, Compton is trading blood in the streets for stolen lawn mowers. There is a palpable sense that the streets are safer.