Serious Crime Falls in State's Major Cities

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Major crimes in California's largest cities and suburbs fell 8.5% in 1995, further accelerating a three-year spiral, state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren said Tuesday.

Lungren said a preliminary report by his office measuring crime in the state's population centers found that murder and other homicides declined 3.1% last year. He said robbery plunged 7.9% and forcible rape declined 3.9%.

The study also found that aggravated assault dropped 4.2%, along with burglary, 8.9%, and car theft, 11.4%.

The crime rate fell 8.9% in Los Angeles County and 5.7% in the city of Los Angeles, the report said.

Other cities in Los Angeles County and their reduced crime rates included: El Monte, 11.8%; Glendale, 12.2%; Inglewood, 9.9%; Long Beach, 16.6%; Pasadena, 6.8%; Pomona, 7.2%; Simi Valley, 9.6%, and Torrance, 10.8%.

Inland Empire cities and their reduced rates included: Fontana, 2.2%; Ontario, 14.6%; Riverside, 13.6%, and San Bernardino, 9.7%.

Lungren, a likely Republican candidate for governor in 1998, said his figures refuted a "continuing drumbeat of pessimism" from the "liberal community," which has criticized the 1994 "three strikes" sentencing law as seriously flawed.

He cited recent reports by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank in San Francisco. Among other things, the center found that African Americans were sentenced disproportionately, accounting for 43% of "three strikes" inmates.

The state Department of Corrections has said that 85% of those locked up under the statute were convicted of nonviolent offenses on their second and third strikes.

The chief provision of the landmark law requires most felons convicted of a third serious or violent crime to go to prison for 25 years to life.

The crime rate in California has been falling since 1992, but its acceleration has intensified in the past three years. Gov. Pete Wilson, Lungren and other supporters have credited the "three strikes" law and other anti-crime legislation for the reduction.

In his preliminary report, Lungren also said that if the state's smaller communities show a similar drop in crime when they report in May, the state will set records. He added that 1995 could go down as having the biggest single-year decline in major offenses by both rate and actual number.

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