Homicides down in area But bloody weekend in Valley, South Central angers D.A.

Los Angeles Daily News

Homicides down in area
But bloody weekend in Valley, South Central angers D.A.

By ByJason Kandel
Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 01, 2003 – Homicides fell 30 percent in the San Fernando Valley and 22 percent citywide during the first quarter of the year, and authorities Tuesday credited a heightened police presence for the drop.

Several categories of serious crimes continued to rise but the Valley Bureau of the Los Angeles Police Department recorded only 19 homicides through March 31 — about half of them gang-related — compared with 27 during the first quarter of 2002.

“I’m excited to see that things have been calming down,” said William “Blinky” Rodriguez, executive director of Communities in Schools, a North Hills nonprofit organization working to keep kids out of gangs.

Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said redeploying officers from other, quieter bureaus to more dangerous spots in the city has apparently helped prevent some homicides.

“Officers are working very hard,” he said. “They’re focusing their energies where violence is the highest.”

Citywide, homicides plummeted from 156 to 122 — a number that grew dramatically over the weekend, when gang warfare left five people dead in South Central Los Angeles.

“We had a hell of a weekend,” said McDonnell, the department’s second in command. “Our numbers prior to the weekend were down 20 percent. We’re happy about that, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

District Attorney Steve Cooley reacted with anger to the recent spate of street violence, and he organized a peace vigil for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Dolores Mission, 170 S. Gless St., Los Angeles.

“Throughout Los Angeles County, there is an urban war being waged in our streets,” Cooley said. “Gang violence is killing our children and devastating our communities.”

Despite the drop in Valley homicides, police say shootings and other types of crime are on the rise.

“We still have a number of aggravated assaults,” said Deputy Chief Ronald Bergmann, commander of the LAPD’s Valley Bureau. “But homicides are down. Gang homicides are down. I’m happy about that.

“We still have got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to reduce the shootings.”

Bergmann met with his staff Tuesday to discuss ways to improve how police handle such shootings and to ensure that detectives enter each case as quickly as possible after the gunfire.

He also hopes to get stronger cooperation from the Scientific Investigation Division downtown and to identify people who are responsible for multiple shootings.

“We’re looking at what the areas are doing — and help them out when they have a rash of shootings,” he said.

Bergmann was concerned about the weekend violence, in which 18-year-old Salvador Celis was killed in a gang-related shooting Sunday night at a bus stop in Van Nuys. Four other people were wounded in weekend shootings in the Foothill Division, two of them gang-related.

Police give the nonfatal shootings as much attention as homicides.

“It is only a matter of inches, and the shootings could become murders,” said LAPD Lt. George Rock, who supervises the Foothill detectives. “We will investigate them as quickly as possible and follow them until the leads are exhausted.”

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