Crime, which had been going down in Los Angeles for more than a decade, saw a considerable increase this year.
And the San Fernando Valley was not immune to this phenomenon in 2015. Except for the West Valley Division, all other Valley Divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department reported a jump in crime.
Through Dec. 5 (the last reported figures by the LAPD), crime in the entire city had gone up 20 percent overall, citing increases in all types of violent crimes. There were 266 homicides this year, compared with 237 last year. Rapes increased to 1,522 from previous year’s total of 1,418. Robberies also rose to 8,335; there were 7,353 in 2014. Lastly, there were 12,510 incidents of aggravated assault, compared with 9,802 in 2014.
In general, there were 16 percent more shooting victims in Los Angeles while arrests were down 9.5 percent.
“It’s been a tough year,” admitted LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, in his Dec. 8 message. “This is the first year in over a dozen years we’ve seen an increase in crime.”
Beck also noted that “there were events across the nation that caused a crisis in confidence on police departments and the LAPD has had to respond to both of those things.”
San Fernando Valley Crime
The San Fernando Valley also an increase of crime totals.
Foothill Division reported 671 violent crimes in 2015, compared with 611 last year (9.8 percent). Mission Division had 872 cases as opposed to 776 in 2014 (12.4 percent);
North Hollywood’s violent crime statistics went up from 609 cases to 824 (35.3 percent). Van Nuys’ figures rose to 769 incidents compared to 578 in 2014 (33 percent). And Topanga’s 2015 numbers were 674 cases, compared with 509 the previous year (32.4 percent).
The largest increases in all the divisions were in aggravated assaults — incidents where somebody suffered great bodily injury.
It’s a trend that Los Angeles officials want to reverse.
Police Commission President Matthew Johnson made it a focal point when he he took over in mid-November.
“We must reduce the crime rate. The single most important function of any government is keeping its citizens safe,” Johnson said.
Officer Involved Shootings
Controversial police shootings have been a trend this year and Los Angeles was no exception.
One such incident took place March 1, when six LAPD officers responding to a robbery call in the area of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles confronted a homeless man who — according to police — tried to grab an officer’s handgun. Three officers opened fire and the man, later identified as Charly Keunang, was killed. A video of the altercation went viral.
Massive protests were held soon after calling the incident a case of “police brutality.” The LAPD and Los Angeles now face a $20 million lawsuit filed by Keunang’s family.
Then in July, the Police Commission ruled that the actions of one LAPD officer who fatally shot Ezell Ford, a mentally ill unarmed 25-year-old, were not within department policy, while another officer’s actions were found largely within policy.
The unanimous decision went against the recommendation of Beck for the August 2014 killing, and also sparked marches and calls for reform.
Beck acknowledge the strains these cases put on his department.
“We have to not only respond to criticism, but do what’s right,” he said.
Crime Stats Across The US
Los Angeles is not the only large city in the country facing an increase in crime. A report released last month by the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice —a nonpartisan public policy and law institute that focuses on the fundamental issues of democracy and justice — showed an 11 percent increase in the homicide rate in 2015 in 25 of the nation’s largest cities.
In addition, violent crimes, and property crimes numbers are all rising.
However, the Brennan Center’s report “Crime in 2015: A Preliminary Analysis,” does emphasize that “today’s murder rates are still” at all-time historic lows.
“In 1990 there were 29.3 murders per 100,000 residents in these cities,” the report said. “In 2000, there were 13.8 murders per 100,000. Now, there are 9.9 murders per 100,000 residents. Averaged across the cities, we find that while Americans in urban areas have experienced more murders this year than last year, they are safer than they were five years ago and much safer than they were 25 years ago.”
Locally, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Chief Beck attribute the increases to several possible factors including gang violence, rising homelessness and Proposition 47, a measure approved by voters in 2014 that downgraded many theft and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. It allowed more convicts to have their sentences reduced and put them back on the streets sooner, where some of them may be committed crimes.
Beck, in his December message, said that “violent crime is about the small minority of folks who do the vast majority of assaults.”