It's "cool" to carry a gun to school these days. And the results are devastating.
Twenty years ago, children didn't walk to school worried about being shot. Today, it's an all-too-common fear.
In Los Angeles, you are more likely to die from a bullet wound than in a traffic accident. During 1991 in Los Angeles County, 1,215 people died in traffic accidents, while 1,554 were killed and 8,600 were wounded by gunfire--24 shootings and four murders a day. In 1992, the Los Angeles area had more than 2,600 bank robberies--more than seven a day--with a 400% increase of violent bank takeovers.
As I walk precincts throughout the city, citizens everywhere tell me that safety is their No. 1 concern. From Sylmar to San Pedro, far too many homes have bars on the windows for citizens to feel safe at night. The criminals are putting law-abiding citizens under house arrest.
Lack of safety is affecting jobs. Last year, we lost 31,000 tourism jobs because tourists are staying away. Businesses are leaving. And most important, young middle-class taxpayers are leaving.
It's time to put law-abiding citizens back in control. Los Angeles is the most underpoliced city in America. According to the Webster Commission report, there are only 350 officers--4% of the police force--on the streets at any given time. Los Angeles has about one police officer for every 460 residents, while New York has one for every 236 and Chicago one for every 247. In the last three years, the Los Angeles police force has shrunk from 8,400 officers to 7,700. We all want more police, but raising taxes doesn't get at the real solution. Better management of city resources does. The City Council has been cutting the allocation of resources to the police department. In 1977, 20.6% of the city budget went for police protection; in 1992-93 only 13.9%.
The Riordan plan includes giving neighborhoods the resources to make their communities safe. My plan will:
* Hire, train and deploy an additional 3,000 police officers over a four-year period. This could be paid for by leasing LAX to a private operator--with a $250 million up-front payment and yearly rentals growing from $130 million in the first year to around $700 million in the 30th.
* Shift certified officers from the Sheriff's Department, the Highway Patrol and other local agencies to the LAPD.
* Rehire retired LAPD officers on short-term contracts.
* Expand Police Reserves , using volunteers for low-cost/high-quality assistance.
* Provide police with necessary equipment: Increase the number of patrol cars, replace aging vehicles and equip police cars with cellular phones.
More police alone will not be enough. Safety of citizens is a collective responsibility requiring cooperation between neighborhoods and officers. The Riordan plan will also create a Peace and Safety Corps in neighborhoods and develop leaders to become the "eyes and ears" of the community. For example, these leaders will have cellular phones to nearby police stations and video cameras to film graffiti "taggers" for identification and arrest.
We must also focus on the underlying problems that many of our communities face today, and work to prevent them from continuing. As mayor, I will develop programs to give every individual a stake in society through education, skills development and business ownership.