As we begin a new year, I not only feel good about where we are going, but where we have been. The past year was a very good one for the Los Angeles Police Department. We continued our efforts to
re-establish the LAPD as the leading law enforcement agency in the nation, raising the bar of professional standards for ourselves and for our colleagues in law enforcement. We delivered declines in crime for the residents of the City of Los Angeles for the sixth year in a row, furthering a history-making success streak that is making local, national and international headlines.
By the time you read or see this, the Department will have begun the process of evaluating the end of year crime numbers for 2007. While the preliminary numbers are not yet in, certain trends are apparent and can be used as indicators of what we will likely see once all the statistics are finalized. What is very clear is that you, the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department, are doing what some critics say can’t be done: having a direct impact on crime. I continue to champion the fundamental idea that cops on the street equals fewer crimes. Quite simply, cops count, police matter. And more cops will mean an even safer city. For a brief overview, look at this: projected at less than 400 for 2007, the number of homicides will be the lowest it has been since the early 1970’s. In addition, there were fewer shooting victims in 2007 than in the previous year. Overall per capita crime is down to a rate lower than it has been since the early 1950’s. Los Angeles is increasingly a better place to live, to work, and to visit. While we are still calculating, it is possible that for 2007 we will have some of the most significant crime declines in the entire country for any major city.
The good news forecasting also includes our efforts at reducing gang crime. By identifying and targeting eleven of the most dangerous and active gangs, we have been able to decrease their overall crime by 11% so far in 2007, while increasing the number of arrests of those gangs’ members by 20%. Several of our other gang initiatives have been successful as well, including the top ten most wanted gang members list, the increased involvement of patrol officers in gang injunction enforcement, gang awareness training for communities, and the creation of the South Bureau Criminal Homicide Group. Combined, these efforts have helped to reduce overall gang crimes at the time of this writing by 4.5%. Again, all of these statistics will be updated when we have finished the end of year evaluations, but these results mean that we are continuing to expand our anti-gang tactics and strategies with increasing effectiveness. There is more work to be done this new year but we have shown that when we focus the efforts of the entire law enforcement community and work with our city residents, we can and do reduce gang violence.
As encouraging as these trends look, there are a couple of indicators that are of concern and I want to address them here at the beginning of the year so they will be squarely on everybody’s radar. First, burglary/theft from vehicles is up citywide, and has been for quite some time. We continue to caution the public to be careful with what they leave behind in unattended vehicles, and I ask that each of you do the same in your interactions with members of the community. It’s pretty simple: you wouldn’t leave a hundred dollar bill on the dashboard of a car, so why leave purses, laptops, phones, or other valuable items in plain sight of a thief? As you well know, the theft of these personal items may lead to other more violent crimes including burglaries, robberies and even rape.
Both here in Los Angeles and nationally, assaults against police officers are on the rise, another trend that gained momentum in 2007. By the beginning of December, the total number of LAPD officers shot was higher than it has been in 3 years. The number of non-hits was lower, but only by a few. Thankfully there were no LAPD officers killed in the line of duty.
During the past five years we have shared many successes and I expect that will continue in this new year. As I begin my second five year term as your Chief, I will continue to direct the Department to focus its efforts on four major goals: reducing crime, achieving full compliance with the Consent Decree, significantly expanding terrorism prevention and preparedness, and growing the Department by 1,000 officers.
Along with these principal goals, my New Year’s resolution for the Department is to further research and acquire necessary technologies to facilitate your hard work. Real-time information-led policing is the direction our profession is taking in the information age, and is the key to our success in the future. LAPD will be the go-to department for many of these innovations. Delivering information to officers as soon as is feasibly possible is what is called for in the new policing paradigm of the 21st century. I expect that in 2008 the Department will see an increase in the use of technology as we look at ways of becoming even more efficient at fighting crime.
In closing, we find ourselves in a good position at the beginning of 2008. But with such great forward momentum, there is a need for even greater commitment. I expect continued annual crime reductions throughout the year. Keep doing your part, and I will keep doing mine.