Crime Rate Off 10% in Northeast Area

Times Staff Writer

The Northeast Division of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Crescenta Valley sheriff's station reported this week that crime dropped more than 10% in the first quarter of the year from the same period in 1984. Officials said it was the largest decrease in recent memory.

Police noted a 15% decrease in robberies, 16% drop in burglaries and 12.5% decline in assaults in the northeast neighborhoods of Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Mount Washington, Silver Lake and Los Feliz.

The sheriff's station announced that overall crime was down more than 15% in La Canada Flintridge and the La Crescenta area, with the most dramatic drop being 50% in residential burglaries compared to figures from January through March of 1984.

Fourth Year of Decline

The decline in Northeast Los Angeles and the Crescenta Valley patrol area comes in the wake of last week's announcement by state officials that crime decreased 3.3% in California in 1984, the fourth straight year of decline.

State officials attributed the decline, in part, to the decreasing percentage of juveniles in the population. Juveniles traditionally commit a large percentage of crimes.

The downturn also was attributed to the record number of people being sentenced to longer prison terms, which affects the crime rate by keeping criminals off the streets.

Police concede that they have been aided by changing demographics and tougher court sentences. However, they stress that new patrol strategies and the increased participation of residents in law enforcement matters plays an even larger role in the drop in crime.

"You can always look at society in general and give reasons for less crime," Northeast Capt. Bob Taylor said. "But police work and the role the community plays can't be overlooked."

Reverse in Crime Rate

Overall, crime in the Northeast Division, which stretches from the western end of Griffith Park to Highland Park and from Glendale to parts of the Hollywood Freeway, dropped 10.2% in the first quarter of the year.

Compared to the Los Angeles Police Department's 17 other divisions, the Northeast had the third largest decrease and was among 10 divisions that showed declines during the first quarter of 1985. In 1984, crime in the area rose 7%.

Taylor said that much of the 1985 drop can be attributed to the division's special-problem unit, a group of eight officers who work undercover to spot crime trends and concentrate on patrol areas that have been affected by certain crimes.

Taylor said that the group, formed in September, has conducted several successful "sting" operations that focus on criminals who receive stolen property, particularly owners of automobile repair shops that disassemble stolen cars and sell the parts.

Taylor said the unit has helped increase observation of parking lots and streets in an attempt to reduce burglary and theft from cars. Automobile burglaries dropped 6% from the first quarter of last year, and theft from cars dropped 19%.

Community Involvement

Capt. Clayton Mayes said increased involvement with the community is another factor in the crime decrease. Police have stepped up their contacts with area residents and regularly attend Neighborhood Watch meetings to give tips on how to fight crime, Mayes said.

Taylor said that 20 Neighborhood Watch groups have formed since the first of the year, particularly in the area around Griffith Park. There are now about 300 such groups in Northeast Los Angeles.

In the past two years, there has been a sixfold increase in the number of Neighborhood Watch groups within the division's patrol area, Taylor said.

Community relations officer Manny Belmonte said several of the groups have extended the program to patrolling areas on foot rather than watching from living-room windows. That effort has led to as much as a 20% drop in residential burglaries in some neighborhoods and has been effective in combating drug activity, Belmonte said.

Big Drop in Los Feliz

Crime, especially residential and automobile burglary, dropped the most in the Los Feliz and Silver Lake districts, Taylor said, although the area around Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont Avenue is still plagued by street robberies.

Gang violence in the Mount Washington area has risen, Taylor said.

Crime was down in all major categories except rape in Northeast Los Angeles. There were 21 reported rapes in the first quarter, compared to 20 in 1984. Murders fell from six to four.

A total of 3,271 crimes were reported to the division during the first quarter of the year, compared to 3,643 last year. In raw numbers, the largest decrease was in burglaries, which fell from 1,200 to 1,004.

Crime statistics for Glendale will not be available for about three weeks because the Police Department is installing new computer equipment and officials have not been able to feed information into the system, Sgt. Tom Thate said.

15.8% Decrease

The Crescenta Valley sheriff's station, which patrols La Canada Flintridge and some nearby Los Angeles County territory, reported a 15.8% drop in major crimes during the three-month period.

Deputy Jack Barnes said the most dramatic change was in residential burglaries, which were down 50%--from 92 to 46 incidents--from the January-March period of 1984.

Barnes attributed much of the decrease to the station's crime impact program, which uses a team of deputies who gather data on when burglaries occur, how the burglars got in the home and what parts of the city are being hit hardest.

Deputies use the information to stake out neighborhoods where burglaries are frequent.

The program has helped crack down on commercial and car burglaries. Commercial burglaries dropped from 58 in the first quarter of 1984 to 31 this year; car burglaries fell from 31 to 24, Barnes said.

Murder Victims Found

"I guess you could say we've been where the bad guys have been," Barnes said.

The small, semirural La Canada Flintridge is not usually the scene of violent crime. However, the city and the adjoining area often serve as a dumping ground for people who were killed elsewhere, Lt. Gill Leslie said.

The bodies of four murder victims were found in the area in the first quarter of the year, compared to two in the same period last year, Leslie said.

Robberies increased from four to seven. A total of 265 major crimes were reported to the sheriff's station during the three months, compared to 315 last year.

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