This bustling, global metropolis, with its Thaitown and Koreatown, Little Armenia and Oaxacan Westside, surely isn't the Leave it to Beaver burg it was in 1957.
But L.A. city leaders, somewhat bullshittingly, continue to compare present day crime to that of the “Mr. Sandman” era.
The latest stats (link) unfurled by the LAPD once again claim another year in which we saw our lowest number of crimes since the 1950s:
104,215 violent and property crimes were reported by the department in 2011, the LAPD announced yesterday.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa actually moved the goal post back, stating that this represents less per-capital crime than in … 1952. Officials said it was the lowest overall number of crime reports since 1957.
Even though murder was up by one over 2010, that's an astonishing feat.
Of course, many have accused City Hall of cooking the books on this kind of stuff. In a 2009 story looking at the same kind of lowest-since-1956-crime-rate claims of then-Chief William Bratton, LA Weekly staff writer Patrick McDonald noted that officials have been comparing apples and oranges, failing ….
… to compare the seven categories of Part I crime of 1956 to the same seven categories of today's Part I crime on a one-on-one basis.
He continues: In 1956 …
… when L.A.'s population was 2.3 million, there were 104 homicides. That's one killing for every 22,115 people. In 2007, with an L.A. population of 4 million, there were 396 homicides. That's one killing for every 10,101 people — about twice the rate of slayings. For L.A. to be as safe as in 1956, homicides under Bratton would have had to plunge in 2007 to a mere 180 killings — the kind of rarity that would be so noticeable, weeks would pass without a murder, residents might actually start feeling safe and TV news crews would have to find something else to cover.
In 1956, L.A. had 3,548 robberies, or one robbery for every 648 residents. According to the LAPD Statistical Digest, in 2007 there were 13,467 robberies, or one robbery for every 297 people. That's more than twice as bad as in 1956, a fact that residents intuitively feel.
Officials say the number of homicides in 2011, 298, was the just one more than in 2010, which posted a lower number than any year since 1967.
Rapes were down nearly 20 percent year-to-year. (To be fair on that one, we'd have to note that DNA technology has scared the shit out of would-be rapists, sending the numbers plummeting from coast-to-coast in recent years, as McDonald pointed out in his piece).
Chief Charlie Beck used the fresh stats to plead for steady funding of the department, one of the things city taxpayers spend their most money on:
We are a tempting target because we are so big and consume so much of the city's budget, but that is a false savings. Money towards public safety is the best money, the most important job of government.
That's all good (unless, of course, we're paying a retired police official more than $200,000 a year not to work). But let's be straight about the data.