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LAPD Touts Double-Digit Decreases in Homicides and Shootings

Last year’s 17 percent decline in homicides and 10 percent drop in nonfatal shootings contributed to a decrease of about 3 percent in reported violent crime overall. However, both property crimes and auto thefts did increase.

In the latest sign that violent crime in Los Angeles is receding from a surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, LAPD officials on Wednesday released statistics showing double-digit percentage declines in both homicides and nonfatal shootings in 2023.

The decreases — killings and shootings were down 17 percent and 10 percent, respectively — contributed to a roughly overall 3 percent drop in reported violent crime, compared with the year before. Meanwhile, property crimes were up by about 3 percent during the same period, driven by a rise in auto theft.

Speaking at a news conference at LAPD headquarters Wednesday, Chief Michel Moore ticked off the diminishing crime numbers, with major caveats for each category.

Homicides citywide decreased to 327 in 2023 from 392 the year before, Moore said — but the number of people who were killed over the last 12 months was still higher than in 2019, which capped a decadelong run of fewer than 300 yearly slayings.

There were 127 fewer gunshot victims last year, but the total of 1,206 was still 260 more than in 2019.

Moore pointed out that robberies were down about 10 percent, but a greater percentage of those stickups involved firearms. Despite the positive statistics, the chief said he understood how some residents may be left feeling on edge by crimes including smash-and-grab thefts, which have been the focus of TV newscasts and social media posts showing people carrying stolen merchandise as they stream out of high-end stores.

"The perception of safety remains a concern across this great city," Moore said. "Our commitment is to address that perception, as well as the increased gun violence that we see far too much of still on our streets."

The chief, who has announced plans to retire at the end of February, noted that less than half of the city's homicides were gang-related. Violent crimes targeting unhoused people were also down significantly, according to Moore.

He credited the decreases to better coordination with law enforcement partners to address trends such as retail theft and follow-home robberies. Moore also cited improvement of the department's technology systems and the success of initiatives such as the heralded Community Safety Partnership program, which provides more localized attention to some of the city's housing developments.

Mayor Karen Bass credited Moore with helping drive down crime and said that even as it worked to restore police staffing the city was continuing to beef up its non-law enforcement responses to crime. Bass singled out efforts to get people housed, and roughly $50 million in grants that have been distributed to community-based violence prevention groups. Asked about her expectations of the city's next police chief, Bass demurred and said she would have a clearer idea in the next few weeks.

The mayor said work remains to be done to keep Angelenos safe, including by reducing the number of citizens who are shot by police. Last year, Los Angeles Police Department officers opened fire 34 times in the line of duty.

Although violent crime continued to fall, property crimes have gone up. The city leaders said stolen vehicles were an area of particular concern. An increase in the theft of Kia and Hyundai models was fueled by social media trends, Moore said.

Criminologists, police officials and others who study crime have long cautioned that the volatility of year-over-year trends makes comparisons difficult. They also warn against making broad generalizations, which tend to oversimplify the complicated and intertwined causes of crime. But disclaimers aside, crime today is nowhere near its peak of the 1990s, when the city saw more than 1,000 killings in a year.

The end-of-year figures show that reported violent crime continued to decline last year, following a trend in other large U.S. cities.

At the same time, the belief that public safety can be achieved only through more policing is falling out of favor in some circles. Some community activists and researchers argue that police have only a marginal affect on crime rates, a position that has gained traction amid the social justice reckoning that followed the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police skeptics suggest that violence nationwide has ebbed along with the pandemic, which brought school closures and economic disruption. The answer for greater public safety, some contend, lies in more resources for underserved communities, instead of more officers on the street — a point raised at a meeting of the LAPD Police Commission on Tuesday night.

As one speaker pointed out, the current crime decline came at a time when the department was down hundreds of officers. Others at the meeting in Watts said they would feel safer with more police around.

According a report released last month by the Council on Criminal Justice, homicides nationwide dropped 9.4 percent in the first six months of 2023, compared with the same period in 2022. The report, based on preliminary figures, said that if the trend continued, this would mark the largest single-year homicide reduction in modern history. A final report is expected to be released later this month.

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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