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Rape Is on the Rise in Los Angeles County

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck held their biannual crime-stats press conference today in typical feel-good fashion: They were proud to announce that for the first half of 2012, violent crimes were down 8.8 percent from last year.

But the same cannot be said for reported rapes over the last six months. For the first time in years, the rape count has shot up 3.6 percent (to a total of 374 rapes).

And the numbers are even worse for L.A. County:

A sheriff's report released at the end of June shows that rapes throughout the county are up 6.33 percent from last year.

Areas of particularly sharp increase include Lancaster, Lynwood, South L.A. and -- most unexpectedly -- the middle-class Santa Clarita Valley, where a chilling 18 rapes were reported in the first half of 2012.

Within L.A. city limits, the the Los Angeles Police Foundation has finally acknowledged that Hollywood is a new problem area for sexual assaults. Officials released the following PSA about two weeks ago "in response to a rise in sexual assaults in the Hollywood area." (It took long enough -- City Hall activist John Walsh has been harping about a Hollywood Boulevard rape surge for months.)

Here is a rough LAPD map with locations and details on the year's reported rapes so far.

So what's fueling this surge in sex crimes?

At today's press conference, Chief Beck blamed some of the 2012 crime increases (which also include car break-ins and personal thefts) on the state's new policy of transferring non-violent prisoners from state prisons to county jails, or even releasing them early.

"To say that [prison realignment] has not had an effect would be hiding from the reality of this subject,'' said the chief.

And in a press release, L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich provided similar rationale for countywide crime rates, which are up almost across the board:

"The District Attorney was right when he predicted that there would be a spike in crime as a result of the Governor's irresponsible realignment program. This law needs to be changed -- our cities and counties are being victimized by it."

L.A. city officials have been known to stretch their crime statistics and exaggerate the level of safety we've reached through ace policing. But they'll have a tough time politicking their way out of this one.

Any theories, Los Angeles, on what could be prompting more predators to pounce?

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]