Homicide Rate: Lowest in 20 Years

Homicide Rate: Lowest in 20 Years
City Homicide Rate Drops Below 600 For First Time Since 1977

LOS ANGELES, Posted 11:55 a.m. December 29, 1997 — Homicides in the city of Los Angeles dropped this year to their lowest level since 1977, a time when the city had 700,000 fewer people, according to preliminary police statistics.

As of Dec. 14, there had been 566 homicides in the city of Los Angeles this year — 143 fewer than for all of 1996. Los Angeles hasn’t had fewer than 600 homicides in a year since 20 years ago, when 574 people were slain, The Los Angeles Times reported today.

“It seems that society has gotten tired of so many murders,” says Deputy Chief Martin Pomeroy. “People may finally be weary of all the violence.”

Serious criminal activity has been decreasing nationwide, especially in some of the country’s largest cities, but even those declines fail to match what has happened in Los Angeles. The FBI reported that murders were down a record 11 percent nationwide in 1996, while Los Angeles had a 16.5 percent decline.

The LAPD is responsible for all of the city of Los Angeles, which has 3.68 million residents, the state Department of Finance reported this year. LAPD does not patrol the rest of Los Angeles County, which is covered by the Sheriff’s Department and multiple city police forces.

Officials are unsure what is responsible for the sharp declines, although criminalists, police and academicians point to a number of factors that may have played a part.

Overworked homicide detectives have been freed up to investigate crimes more thoroughly because of the decline, resulting in higher-quality investigations and a larger number of cases being solved, authorities said.

During the city’s peak murder years in the early 1990s — when the number of homicides topped 1,000 for three straight years — workloads were so heavy that detectives were unable to check all leads in their cases.

Although the number of homicides has plummeted citywide, some pockets of Los Angeles have seen an increase of killings. In fact, one-third of the LAPD’s 18 divisions have already experienced more slayings this year than in 1996.

Department officials believe that the LAPD’s efforts in community policing and increased police staffing levels over the past several years have had a positive impact, particularly in the area of gang-related crimes.

They say they hope a new style of policing also will lead to crime reductions. Based on a successful model in New York City, LAPD officials have started using up-to-the-minute crime statistics to identify problem areas and better deploy resources.

Copyright 1997 by The Associated Press

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