Hounded by news of clashes-with-cops caught on tape and a stubborn murder rate that has been in plus territory almost since spring, the Los Angeles Police Department has something to celebrate this month: The city's homicide rate dipped into negative territory, according to department statistics released this week.
The stats through July 24 show murders dipped 2.3 percent compared to the same time last year. There were 172 homicides reported through July 24; last year there were 176 for roughly the same period. The drop follows a similar dip reported for July 17.
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The LAPD had been struggling with a slight increase in the homicide rate on and off since April. The rate climbed as high as 6.3 percent over last year in June. It even became an issue for the police union, which argued that cuts in civilians and overtime meant less cops and more crime.
Murders have been up elsewhere, including New York City, and it's anybody's guess why: Unemployment? Policing? Lindsay Lohan?
In any case the nice report card should give Chief Charlie Beck, who has had to fill the shoes of crime-reduction king William Bratton, some breathing room that he can use to whip some of those allegedly mischievous beat cops into shape.
Overall violent crime, by the way, is down nearly 12 percent, according to the LAPD's COMPSTAT numbers.