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L.A. homicides down nearly 23% this year, Chief Charlie Beck says

Los Angeles marked another drop in homicides in the first three months of 2014, a trend police Chief Charlie Beck said he was cautiously optimistic would continue throughout the year.

Speaking at a top-floor terrace at the LAPD's downtown headquarters Thursday, Beck said 2014 had so far seen 16 fewer homicides than the first three months of 2013, a nearly 23% drop.

The city saw a decades-low number of 251 homicides in 2013, the fewest since 1966. Beck called the 2014 drop "pretty significant" given the year before.

HOMICIDE REPORT: A story for every victim

Though early in the year, Beck said if the numbers hold, L.A. could end 2014 with somewhere around 200 homicides -- an "amazing statistic."

"We're on the right track," Beck said. "I look forward to a good year, but as always my optimism is cautious. We're still just one quarter in."

The decline in homicides in Los Angeles is part of a long-term trend seen in big U.S. cities. New York, Chicago and Houston also have recorded big drops in homicides.

Nowhere was the LAPD's 2013 decline more pronounced than in the San Fernando Valley. Statistics showed the Valley had 40 homicides last year, dropping 35% from 2012 -- the biggest decline of any region in the city. As recently as 2006, the region recorded 87 homicides.

As of March 29, statistics showed the LAPD’s Valley Bureau has recorded 15 homicides so far this year, up from 13 in the same period in 2013.

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kate.mather@latimes.com

Twitter: @katemather | Google+

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