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Crime down for 4th year, Bratton says

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said Tuesday his department likely will meet its crime-reduction goal this year, but he privately warned elected officials he won’t be able to achieve the same 8% drop next year unless they significantly increased money for overtime to his understaffed police force.

With less than a month left in the year, Bratton told the Police Commission he is confident the department will achieve a significant drop in serious crime for the fourth consecutive year.

Last year saw a 10% drop.

As of Monday, Los Angeles has seen a 5.4% decrease in homicides, from 465 during the same period in 2005, to 440 this year.

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Bratton told the commission that as of Saturday rapes had dropped 8.3%, aggravated assaults 8.5% and burglaries 8%. Robberies increased 5.7%.

Police Commission President John Mack said Bratton deserved credit for setting crime-reduction goals, which other chiefs had not done.

“We’re in a period where most of the nation has seen an increase in crime,” Mack said. “Fortunately, under the chief’s leadership, crime is still on a downward trend here.”

Bratton acknowledged crime is down more in some areas of the city than in others. In Central Bureau, serious crime is down 9.7%, South Bureau is down 6%, Valley Bureau is down 3.6% and West Bureau is down 14%.

“Next year it will be less than 8%,” Bratton told The Times, referring to the overall crime drop. “I’m really handicapped because of the small size of the department.”

Although the city in July approved a fee on trash collection to raise money to hire 1,000 officers over five years, the department has not grown significantly, largely because recruitment efforts lagged.

While waiting for the police force expansion, Bratton has asked for $11 million to increase overtime from 1.2 million hours to 1.4 million.

That would give the department the equivalent of 250 to 300 additional officers on the street on any given day, about how many would work daily with the 1,000-officer expansion.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said through a spokesman he would prefer hiring more officers.

Because the city has faced budget problems in recent years, the City Council has been tightfisted with police overtime funds.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, chairman of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee and Bratton’s predecessor, is among those who have challenged the department’s spending on overtime, criticizing the agency for not better utilizing the officers it has.

“A cursory review ... reveals that LAPD may be using overtime primarily for routine patrol and detective deployment rather than for end-of-watch or emergency situations,” Parks said Tuesday.

Councilman Jack Weiss, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he supported Bratton’s proposal.

“The flip side is if you under-budget overtime, as the city often does, you are in denial, because you need those cops on the street,” Weiss said.

Bratton’s proposal to use existing officers with more overtime was endorsed this week by the Police Protective League.

“It’s critical for the council to step up -- the Los Angeles Fire Department has five times more overtime funding to cover only one-third of the personnel the LAPD has,” union President Bob Baker wrote in the organization’s newsletter.

“The good news,” Bratton said, “is we will continue to have crime going down. I don’t see any worsening of our situation, but we could do so much more, so much more quickly, if we have resources in the overtime category.”

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Most L.A. crimes are down again

Police Chief William J. Bratton announced Tuesday that the LAPD is on track to achieve a goal of an 8% decrease in the most serious crimes this year.

Crimes, this year through Dec. 2:

*--* Change Change 2006 2005 (1 year) 2004 (2 years) Violent crimes 27,604 28,225 -2.2% 38,743 -28.8% Property crimes 93,422 103,342 -9.6 112,751 -17.1 Total crimes 121,026 131,567 -8.0 151,494 -20.1

*--*

Note: Violent crimes includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes includes burglary, burglary/theft from a motor vehicle, personal theft and auto theft.

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Source: LAPD


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