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Good Year End News for L.A.: Murder Numbers Back to 1967 Level

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Despite a staggering economy, the number of murders in L.A. has fallen to 1967 levels--which given our 30 percent population rise since then means a murder rate even lower than that.

Details on the good news from the L.A. Times, about the background behind our city's so far only 291 murders in 2010, which is a fall of about one-third from 2007, before the current economic downturn:

The city's total translates into roughly 7.5 killings per 100,000 people and puts it in league with New York City and Phoenix as having among the lowest homicide rates among major U.S. cities....Longer-term declines are even more notable. The city's homicide rate this year marks a 75% drop from 1992, when 1,092 people were killed during a crack cocaine epidemic and gang wars.... The change, experts say, is not easily explained and is probably the result of several factors working together, including effective crime-fighting strategies, strict sentencing laws that have greatly increased the number of people in prison, demographic shifts and sociological influences.

The good news about murders is not evenly spread around L.A., unfortunately:

A few neighborhoods, including Watts and Westlake, have struggled with homicide rates that have not declined significantly over the last four years. Many others, like West Adams, have seen a significant decline. Homicides in the Vermont Square neighborhood of South Los Angeles, for example, have declined in each of the last four years, from 15 in 2007 to three so far this year, the Times' analysis found. Killings in Compton and Long Beach held steady for the three previous years, then posted steep declines this year.

The good crime news isn't restricted to murders--this year has also seen an 11 percent citywide decline in overall violent crimes, the eighth consecutive year of crime rate drops. This is despite budget cuts leading to the work equivalent of 500 fewer police officers working in the city.

Gangs are key to L.A.'s murder rate, with about 50 percent of our killings attributable to them. Thus, this detailed study and critique from Witness.LA on L.A.'s gang fighting strategy is worth checking out.

Past City of Angles blogging on L.A. crime rates.

Image taken by Flickr user robinsan. Used under user Creative Commons license.

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