Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and police Chief Charlie Beck today announced reductions in all categories of violent and property crime for the first half of 2011, attributing nine straight years of overall crime reduction to a "remarkable transformation" of the police department.
Villaraigosa said "Part I" crimes -- homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries and car thefts -- were down almost 8 percent compared to last year and down nearly 30 percent from 2005, when Villaraigosa took office.
"It's not just putting police officers on the street -- it's changing the culture (of the police department)," Villaraigosa said.
Villaraigosa touted a 16 percent reduction since 2010 in gang-related crime, which accounts for 60 percent of homicides in the city. The mayor attributed some of that success to his Gang Reduction and Youth Development Office, which has operated a successful summer program, the Summer Night Lights, that keeps city parks open at night in gang-infested areas. The program was implemented at Valley Plaza Park in North Hollywood and was credited by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian with reducing violent crimes last year at the park. This year, the program is expanding again and will be added to nearby Sun Valley Park.
Beck said that in 1991 -- one of worst in term of crime rates when there was over 1,000 homicides -- Angelenos were 4.5 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime.
"These numbers are great ... but I think what I take the most solace in
is the fact that the police department is now seen as a solution instead of a problem," Beck said. "It is the product of a city that has prioritized public safety."
Despite declining crime, Villaraigosa did not shy away from his goal of hiring more officers.
"Crime in Los Angeles is at a record low, because our police force is at a record high," he said.
In a 2005 campaign pledge, Villaraigosa said he wanted to add 1,000 officers to the department, which had about 9,180 rank-and-file officers at the time. At least 9,963 officers are now on the city payroll, putting the mayor more than three-quarters of the way toward his goal.
But not all of the stats were positive. In particular, Beck said assaults on police officers were up 53 percent so far this year, and the number of officers attacked with weapons increased from 68 last year to 104 so far this year.
Several incidents in the North Hollywood area over the last few months have seen violence against police officers. Just last week, two undercover Glendale police officers had their car rammed in North Hollywood by two robbery suspects before one of the officers shot one of the suspects.
On May 14, an LAPD officer was dragged by a car driven by a sexual assault suspect in the parking lot of the Hacienda Corona nightclub. The officer opened fire on the suspect and was not hurt, but a passenger in the car was run over and admitted to a hospital in critical condition.
In April, LAPD Officer Steve Jenkins was shot in the face with a rifle by a domestic violence suspect. He survived the attack and was released from the hospital, and the suspect committed suicide.
On April 24, an LAPD helicopter had to make an emergency landing after taking gunfire from the ground.
The City News Service contributed to this report.