Bratton Seeks 20% Reduction in Crime

In addition to cutting rape, robbery and homicides, the chief wants to shorten average response time.

By Andrew Blankstein
Times Staff Writer

January 15, 2004

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said Wednesday that he wanted his department to reduce serious crime by 20% in 2004 and shave a full minute off average police response times.

If met, the crime-reduction goals would drop such crimes as homicides, rapes and robberies to their lowest levels in three decades.

Bratton said the department could make it happen by using computer software that would enable officers to more quickly access criminal records from a variety of computer databases, helping them connect crimes and identify suspects.

But he stressed that the department would need money to pay for the system’s software, equipment and operation.

Bratton gave no price tag for the total project, which would come as the city faced state funding cuts.

In addition to the use of new technology, Bratton said the department could cut crime by further streamlining LAPD bureaucracy and putting more officers on the street.

“There was a lot of calculation on the part of the leadership … as to what we believe the potential of what the men and women of the department are,” Bratton told community leaders at the West Angeles Church of God and Christ in the Crenshaw district, where he announced his goals.

This marked the second year that Bratton has set a firm crime-reduction target for his department.

In April, he vowed to reduce homicides by 25% and violent crime by 10%.

He later retreated from those goals after the City Council rejected his request to hire 320 additional officers.

Nonetheless, homicide dropped 23% in 2003 and violent crime fell 6%.

Mayor James K. Hahn and other city officials who attended Bratton’s announcement admitted that the targets were somewhat unorthodox, but said they admired him for taking on the challenge.

“You don’t see too many police departments make that kind of pledge to the community,” Hahn said. “But this is a Police Department that has made goals and delivered on those goals.”

In addition to cutting crime, Bratton said he wanted the department to solve more cases. The LAPD clears about 21% of its cases, and Bratton wants to increase that rate to 25% in 2004.

As for response times, Assistant Chief George Gascon said the department could improve by moving officers from desk duty to the streets to respond to calls.

The department also plans to change its emergency dispatch protocols to give highest priority to serious incidents in progress, such as shootings and assaults.

It now takes an average of nine minutes for police to respond to a call for help. Bratton wants that cut to eight minutes.

Bratton said the new software would help both with response times and overall crime by freeing up officers who now spend days at stations analyzing crime data.

The software, he said, would help investigators identify the 10% of offenders — many of them violent gang members — who commit 50% of the city’s crimes.

There were 506 homicides in Los Angeles last year.

Bratton’s goal is no more than 405 in 2004. The record low, 491 homicides, was set in 1974.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley likened Bratton’s goals to New York Yankee slugger Babe Ruth standing at home plate and pointing to the fence before hitting a ball out of the park.

“You know I saw him [Ruth] do that on television,” Cooley said with a smile.

Los Angeles Urban League President John Mack said he supported Bratton’s goals although they would be hard to achieve.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge given that you have an undermanned Police Department in terms of numbers of people, and we do have hard-core gang problems and members who have no respect for human life,” Mack said.

“I prefer to see Chief Bratton and the department err on the side of being highly ambitious and optimistic than taking the other approach at this and playing it safe because the stakes are too high with every human life that we lose,” Mack said.

“We’ve had some gut-wrenching losses where we had young children just blown away as innocent victims,” Mack said.

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