For first time in more than a decade, violent crime in Los Angeles rose during the first six months of the year, according to Los Angeles Police Department statistics.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the department was "very concerned" about the increase but also noted that overall crime, which includes property offenses such as burglaries, remains down.
Violent crime was up 2.9%, with 8,610 crimes reported in the first six months of the year, compared with 8,371 reported during the first six months of 2013. The increase was driven by a jump in aggravated assaults, which were up 12% compared with the same period last year. The number of aggravated assaults was also nearly 5% higher than what was reported during the same time period in 2012.
It marks the first mid-year increase since 2003, when then-Police Chief William Bratton ushered in data-driven policing. Until this year, department had reported 11 consecutive mid-year violent crime declines.
Beck told reporters that his department was "drilling down" on the increase and trying to determine what had caused it. The rise in aggravated assaults, he said, began about two months ago and was "sporadic" across the city.
Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti said the increase could partially be due to reporting more simple assaults as aggravated assaults, which are counted in the city’s violent crime rate. Like all law enforcement agencies, the LAPD is required to report crime statistics to the FBI.
"It may be up overall," Garcetti said. "But the number that are simple assaults versus aggravated assaults has also shifted, perhaps because of more aggressive reporting."
Both the mayor and chief noted crime overall was down in Los Angeles, pointing to decreases in homicides (down 1.5%), robberies (down 5.7%), rapes (down 1.3%) and shooting victims (down 12.1%). But Beck acknowledged his concern.
"Aggravated assaults are the precursors to shootings and homicides, and we're very concerned about this trend," he said. "We're looking at it, we're dissecting it ... and we will keep a close eye on this."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times