Crime has leveled off in L.A., police chief says — and he's 'cautiously optimistic' it will drop

Overall crime in Los Angeles has nearly leveled off at the midyear mark, Police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday, calling 2017’s numbers a sign that police are making progress against the city’s stubborn uptick in crime.

As of July 1, overall crime was up less than 1% when compared with the first six months of 2016 — notably lower than the 6.6% increase the LAPD reported halfway through 2016 and the 12.7% jump the year before.

Beck announced the figures at the weekly meeting of his civilian bosses on the Police Commission. He later credited the progress to a variety of factors: shifting department resources to target violent crime, improving predictive policing to help stem property crime, adapting to changes in legislation and a “relentless focus” on crime from LAPD brass.

Beck also said he hoped that by the end of the year, the city would see crime drop. If overall crime ultimately falls this year, it will mark the first such decrease since 2014.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” Beck said. “But we’ll see.”

The most significant change this year has been in violent crime, which Beck said has risen about 1%. In both 2016 and 2015, the LAPD reported double-digit increases in violent crime at the midyear mark.

Still, homicides increased about 2% in the first six months of this year, Beck said, which he attributed in part to a 2.4% jump in gang-related killings. The number of gunshot victims across the city rose by roughly 4%. Aggravated assaults, he added, were “about even.”

Beck said the department’s efforts to target violent crime — which largely have hinged on shifting Metropolitan Division officers to neighborhoods hit hardest by violence — “stabilized us.”

Faced with the city’s first major crime increase in more than a decade, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced in 2015 that the LAPD would double the size of its elite Metropolitan Division. The LAPD flooded crime hot spots with Metro officers, concentrating on areas where gangs were active or where violence had recently flared.

“Much like anything in life, it’s the constant application of things that you believe in and that work,” Beck said. “Sometimes they’re more effective than others, but over time, they will always succeed.”

The president of the union representing rank-and-file officers noted, however, that violent crime was still significantly higher than it was in 2013. The leveling off “is nothing to get too excited about,” said Craig Lally of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

“With the hot summer months upon us, a season that typically brings more crime with it, now is not the time for anyone to pat themselves on the back, but rather, now is the time for Chief Beck to sharpen his pencil and create a plan to restore safety in our neighborhoods,” he said.

kate.mather@latimes.com

@katemather


UPDATES:

7:25 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the president of the union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers.

This article was originally published at 12:55 p.m.

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