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L.A. mayor says crime rates at ‘historic’ lows

Times Staff Writer

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Police Chief William J. Bratton and City Council members Tuesday trumpeted the continued downward slide of crime rates in Los Angeles to what the mayor called “historic” lows.

Saying that “a tide of safety and security is surging throughout the neighborhoods of our city,” Villaraigosa praised Bratton and the department’s 9,750 officers before a bank of television cameras at a well-scripted City Hall news conference. In an effort to preempt calls from critics to slow down on police hiring, the mayor said he would not back off from a push to bolster police ranks with 1,000 new officers. The hiring campaign is less than half completed.

“Some, frankly, will take umbrage with that, and I’m looking them in the eye and saying ‘I’m moving forward, I’m going to grow this Police Department,’ ” Villaraigosa said.

Bratton waded into the ongoing debate over the city’s increased trash collection fees, which the mayor called for to pay for the new hires. He staunchly defended the way the Los Angeles Police Department spends its money in the face of an audit by the city controller that found some of the trash funds were being used to pay for other increases to the LAPD budget, such as overtime and raises.

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The money was for new hires, he acknowledged, “but more importantly is what we do with those cops. . . . What the hell difference does it make if I got 1,000 more cops if they’re not getting crime down? So the public in this city, every dime they’re spending on that trash fee is ultimately resulting in fewer victims of crime in this city. Let’s get that straight.”

So far this year, all categories of violent and property crimes, including gang-related crimes, are down compared with the same period in 2007. For example, there have been 78 fewer rapes -- a nearly 15% decline -- and 1,105 fewer stolen cars, an almost 8% drop.

Through July 26, there were 212 homicides in the city this year, compared with 216 through the same period the year before.

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joel.rubin@latimes.com


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