LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Crime in Los Angeles dropped in the first threemonths of this year -- with violent crimes dropping by half over the past eightyears, top city officials said today.The new statistics follow a trend that Police Chief Charlie Beck anddeparting Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attribute to the increased number ofpolice officers since 2005 and an emphasis on community policing and gangprevention programs.``
(The) crime rate is at a record low because the police force is at arecord high,'' said Villaraigosa, who joined Beck at a news conference toannounce 2013's first-quarter crime rate figures.The numbers released today also compared the first quarter of this yearto a three-month period just prior to when Villaraigosa first took office inJuly 2005, with Beck underscoring the mayor's role in reducing the crime ratein Los Angeles.``This is a mayor whose commitment to public safety, whose visioncreated the GRYD (Gang Reduction and Youth Development) office, whoseunderstanding of the world, of Los Angeles, has cut violent crime, gang crimeand homicides in half since he became mayor,'' Beck said.
In the most dramatic figure, gang-related homicides took a 66.7 percentdive over the past eight years since Villaraigosa took office, a sign ofprogress Beck attributed to the ``recognition that violence in Los Angeles isgang violence, which is why we focus on gang crime so heavily.''Villaraigosa also touted the dramatic reduction in gang-related crimesas a achievement of his time in office, with the new numbers showing gang-related crimes in general took a 55.3 percent dip since 2005. Citywide violentand property crimes dropped 33.9 percent in that same period.
After voters rejected Proposition A -- a ballot measure that would haveraised the sales tax by a half-cent -- in the March 5 primary election, cityleaders warned the police department could be among the target for cuts as cityleaders look for ways to solve a $150 million to $165 million budget deficit.But while Villaraigosa said the police department would not be treatedas a ``sacred cow,'' he nevertheless urged Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel --the mayoral candidates vying to succeed him -- to commit to maintaining policeranks at 10,000 officers or more.``If you want to be the mayor of Los Angeles, then you're going to haveto continue to hire police at the levels that we have,'' said Villaraigosa, whowill leave office at the end of June. ``You're going to have to continue tomake sure public safety is our number one priority'.
'In 2005, police officers numbered 9,284, and today, there are just over10,000 police officers, according to department statistics.Villaraigosa -- who promised to increase the police force in 2005 --said today he is ``proud to have achieved that milestone'' and that his budget,to be released later this month, will recommend continuing to hire police.``I expect that the next mayor will have the same commitment,'' he said.``I've had assurances from both candidates that they will, and I hope to hearthem speak to that in the course of this campaign.
''The first three months of the year displayed a 7.9 percent drop in bothviolent and property crimes, with numbers showing declines in all categories.The crime rate in all geographic areas covered by each of the department'sbureaus also fell.The first quarter saw 66 homicides, a 12 percent decrease from lastyear.
Of those killed, 29 people were killed in gang-related situations, a 29.3percent drop from last year's number.When this quarter's total homicides are compared with 131 homicides in2005, the homicide rate in Los Angeles declined by 49.6 percent, or nearlyhalf, over the past eight years.Beck framed the drop as an ``additional 300 people'' who are alive andwalking the ``streets of Los Angeles every year.''Rapes, which saw an uptick last year, came down by 39.4 percent to 124cases, while aggravated assaults dipped by 11.3 percent and robberies by 13.2percent.The department responded to 19,826 property crimes in the first quarter,which represents a 6.8 percent dip from last year. Reports of shots fireddeclined by 13.6 percent, and the number of shooting victims was 9.3 percentless during the first three months.The numbers were released for a three-month period in which the policedepartment collaborated on a massive manhunt of an ex-LAPD officer thattargeted and killed law enforcement and their family members.