For far too many years, the City of Los Angeles has been gripped by the scourge of gang violence. While over the past several years we have focused on driving down all Part 1 crime Citywide, 2007 will be the year that we refocus our efforts to begin the process of permanently impacting this problem of domestic and community terrorism. Although each of the 19 geographic Areas has its own unique gang issue, our first target will be in the Harbor Gateway area. In December 2006, 14 year-old Cheryl Green was shot by members of the 204th Street gang.
At a news conference on January 18, the Mayor and I were joined by Councilmember Janice Hahn, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Sheriff Lee Baca, and representatives from the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the parole and probation departments, and other law enforcement organizations, to announce our intentions of dismantling the 204th Street gang.
The behavior of this relatively small gang, with less than 120 members, has made it stand out among other gangs in the City. Make no mistake; our goal is to get rid of this gang.
Because of geographic borders and jurisdictions, and through the sharing of data and strategies, the Department will be collaborating with other agencies, including other local law enforcement organizations and the federal government. This united front to suppress this type of activity will open the door for more long-term strategies such as prevention and intervention. We will also be using some of the proven strategies of the past, like gang injunctions, stay-away orders, and strategic deployment. As I have said before, we will never arrest our way out of the gang problem, but the solution must start with suppression. We must first make the area safe so that the intervention and prevention strategies will work.
We will also direct our attention to the San Fernando Valley. We recently announced a new program to assign a probation officer to each of the six Valley stations to help us quickly identify and arrest suspects who violate the terms of their probation. This $500,000 program, teaming up with LA County resources, begins February 5 and focuses on the area where crime has risen the highest in the City. Gangs are to blame for a large percentage of the homicides in the Valley in 2006.
Although the Harbor Gateway area and the San Fernando Valley are where we are focusing our attention and resources now, later in February we will be announcing strategies to attack the gang problem on a Citywide comprehensive and coordinated basis.
In referring to our year-end crime numbers, when the preliminary figures for 2006 were totaled, I was able to tell another good story of the results of your hard work. Last month I applauded your efforts at reducing crime by nearly 8 percent. This month I want to break down the numbers for you so that you can see for yourselves how all of your hard work is paying off.
Crime in the City of Los Angeles dropped for the fifth year in a row in 2006. The per capita crime rate for Part I crime remained below the 1956 level for the second year in a row. Preliminary totals show that nearly 11,000 fewer persons were victimized by major crime last year.
While violent crime was up 3.7% mid-year across the nation, it declined in Los Angeles by 2.5% by the end of the year. Property crime in L.A. dropped 9%, exceeding the national decline of 2.6%.
All but one of the eight categories of Part I crime showed decreases for the last five years. In 2006, homicides dropped 1.8%, the lowest since 1999,rape decreased 7.2%, aggravated assaults 9.1%, burglary dipped 8.2%, car burglary dropped 8.8%, personal and other theft decreased 9.3%, and auto theft dropped 8.1%. Robbery was the only major crime category in the City to increase in 2006 after being down for the last four years.
The jump in robbery paralleled the nation’s, but at a lower rate. At midyear, the national robbery rate was up 8.4% in the major metropolitan counties. At one point during the year, robberies rose over 10% across the City, but the year ended with the robbery rate up 5.5%. The largest increases occurred in the San Fernando Valley despite a nearly 24% increase in arrests, including the capture of several serial robbers.
A ranking of geographic Areas by their Part 1 crime reduction is provided in the following chart.
So, while we certainly have a good story to tell, I still expect continued annual crime reductions. And we will do that by placing more focus on the disproportionately large amount of gang-related crimes. In 2007, we will concentrate our efforts on creative and innovative ways to deal with this continuing and pervasive problem as part of our overall crime and fear reduction efforts.