A 12.7 percent increase in crime in Los Angeles during the first six months of 2015 has prompted law enforcement to take action.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced his office will be holding a series of community forums to address the recent spike in crime. Administrators at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division are examining ways to reduce crime through enhanced community policing.
While no single factor appears to be driving the crime rates up, some possible factors include an increase in homeless and mentally ill individuals living on the streets, differences in the classification of some assaults, and a trend of more crime reporting by citizens, according to Capt. Howard Leslie, commanding officer of the Wilshire Division.
“Nobody knows [why crime is increasing], but we think there are some contributing factors,” Leslie said. “There has been a 12 percent increase in homeless people throughout the city, and because of what is happing downtown with gentrification, it’s causing the homeless to go where the services are, and they are going to the Westside. We have seen an increase in homelessness in the Wilshire Division.”
Overall Part I crimes — which include violent and property crimes such as burglaries, vehicle thefts and larcenies — increased 16 percent in the division so far this year compared to 2014.
Leslie added that Prop. 47, a law approved by voters last November that allows some non-violent offenders with drug offenses and petty thefts to have felonies on their records reduced to misdemeanors, may be a contributing factor. AB 109, a law enacted in 2011 that allowed some non-violent offenders to complete sentences in county jails instead of state prison also may be leading to the increase, because thousands of inmates were released statewide due to jail overcrowding.
“Prop. 47 can’t be disregarded. It’s too early to tell, but it is something we are looking at,” Leslie said. “I don’t think any one thing causes crime to go up, just as I don’t think any one thing makes crime go down.”
Citywide, overall violent crime rose 20.6 percent year to date over the previous year, while total property crimes rose 10.9 percent. Overall, homicides rose 6.7 percent, robberies spiked 16.6 percent, and aggravated assaults jumped 26.3 percent.
In the Wilshire Division, there were 367 violent crimes reported through the second week of July, compared to 321 in 2015 — a 14 percent increase. Homicides dropped in the Wilshire Division, with only two occurring compared to four last year. Robberies were up 2 percent, aggravated assaults went up 36 percent, burglaries increased 14 percent, and burglaries from vehicles increased 26 percent.
Lt. Lonnie Tiano, of the Wilshire Division, said the increase in aggravated assaults may result from a new way the department classifies the incidents. Prior to this year, minor assault cases in which someone was not seriously injured were not classified as aggravated assaults, but instead as battery cases or simple assaults. Many domestic violence cases are also now listed in the aggravated assault category as well.
Property crimes are a perennial problem in the Wilshire Division, which has two major shopping malls and commercial districts along thoroughfares that attract shoplifters. Auto break-ins and thefts continue to be an issue, and police hope to drive the message home to residents and visitors that prevention is key to avoid becoming a victim. Motorists are encouraged to keep valuables out of sight inside vehicles, and to always keep doors and windows locked.
Tiano said there has also been an increase in crime reporting in the Wilshire Division, which he credited to more people being willing to call the police when something occurs instead of just brushing it off. The division’s stance on community policing may also be driving the reporting, as more people are willing to call the police if they have met officers and have confidence that something will be done about a crime.
Leslie said his officers will continue to follow the community policing approach, and he is encouraging all officers to make contacts in the field and introduce themselves to as many members of the community as possible.
“At the Wilshire Division, we want everyone working together,” Leslie said. “It’s educating ourselves, and educating the public. Education is the first line of security.”
Community members are encouraged to get more involved in addressing crime in the Wilshire Division through the community police advisory board, which meets on the third Thursday of every month at the LAPD West Bureau Headquarters, located at 4849 W. Venice Blvd., next to the Wilshire Division. The next meeting will be held tonight from 7 to 8:30 p.m. For information, visit www.lapdwilshire.com.
Two of the community forums announced by Feuer have been scheduled, including meetings on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Van Nuys State Office Building Auditorium, 6150 Van Nuys Blvd.; and on Wednesday, Aug. 19 at the Los Angeles Job Corps Center, 1020 S. Olive St., downtown.
“Neighborhoods across Los Angeles are experiencing a disturbing increase in crime. We should take every step we can to effectively address it,” Feuer added. “I want to discuss with residents what’s happening in their neighborhoods and how we can best work together to make every community safe.”
The forums will include LAPD command staff and representatives from the city attorney’s office, such as neighborhood prosecutors who will review specific crime statistics for each area. Community members can provide input on crime in their neighborhoods, and discuss ways the city attorney’s office and LAPD can partner with neighborhoods to reduce crime.
Feuer said additional forums will be scheduled soon in the Mid-City and South Los Angeles areas, and other communities. He encouraged the public to periodically check the city attorney’s office website at www.atty.lacity.org for updates to the schedule.
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