It's been a tough few years for L.A. law enforcement. Crime has been up, and nobody really knows why. A lot of blame has been assigned to liberal criminal-justice initiatives, such as California's Proposition 47, which downgrades some low-level drug and property charges from felonies to misdemeanors. But many big cities outside the state have also seen crime spikes.
The good news is that some of the numbers are down. The latest citywide crime statistics from the Los Angeles Police Department, obtained in advance by NBC News reporter Andrew Blankstein, show a 3.3 percent year-over-year decrease in violent crime for 2017 so far.
Carl Marziali, press secretary for Mayor Eric Garcetti, said via email that the mayor "is encouraged by the positive trend so far this year. But he has also said that we have more work to do."
Garcetti was criticized in recent months for forgoing the annual mayoral tradition of appearing before the media with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to discuss year-end crime statistics. The mayor was up for re-election — one opponent accused him of "hiding out" — but he said scheduling prevented him from attending such a news conference. Those stats included a 10.2 percent increase in violent crime in 2016 compared with 2015.
This time around — the figures run through March 11 — L.A. is looking at a 0.3 percent year-over-year decrease in serious crime, which includes violent acts (murder, rape, robbery, assault) as well as burglary, vehicle theft and car break-ins. Serious crime is down in all four LAPD bureaus with the exception of the Valley Bureau (which saw a 6.8 percent increase compared with the same time last year). Gang homicides were down 37.5 percent.
However, compared with 2015, which was the last year in a run of low-crime years, violent crime was up nearly 12 percent in 2017 so far, according to LAPD. Major crime was up about 6 percent. Homicides have risen 11.6 percent since then. And Valley crime was up 12.6 percent.
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Those low-crime years in the early 2010s have presented a quandary for Garcetti and the LAPD: How low can you go? In 2014 the department argued that its crime figures were lower than at any time since 1957. That leaves plenty of room for increasing rates, which is what happened.
Press secretary Marziali said the mayor believes we can continue to see the numbers fall.
"That’s why he recently announced an expansion of the Community Safety Partnership, for the first time outside of a public housing development," he said. "The mayor has also set a goal of getting at least 20,000 guns off the streets of L.A. over the next five years."
Marziali also said the Mayor’s Office and LAPD are working with USC to develop new crime-mapping tools "that will help us guide police, gang intervention and prevention, and other resources where they are needed most."