For the first time in more than a decade, all categories of crime rose across Los Angeles in 2015 as police struggled to get control of the problem, according to LAPD data.
Violent crime in L.A. climbed 19.9% and property crime increased 10.3% through Dec. 26 compared with the same period last year, according to the police data. It marked the second year in a row that violent crime rose, but the first time since 2003 that both violent and property crime rose.
The increases follow more than a decade of steep declines in crime, particularly in homicides. Police officials said the recent upswings should be viewed in that larger context.
“We ask people to keep this in perspective,” said Assistant Chief Michel Moore, who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department’s crime-tracking unit. “The city is not on fire, the city is not falling into the ocean.”
Still, the increases have sparked concern in neighborhoods across the city, including Southside areas that have seen jumps in gang-related homicides as well as more affluent areas where residents have complained about thefts and car break-ins.
In Venice, thieves have taken packages from doorsteps, lifted smartphones from pedestrians and attempted to steal cars during the day, said resident George Francisco, co-chairman of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s public safety committee.
“I walked out of my apartment on Main Street and there was a dude just slim-jimming a car in full daylight,” Francisco said of an early-summer incident. He called 911 and the suspect was apprehended before stealing the car.
Francisco routinely talks to officials at the LAPD’s Pacific Division and believes they are working hard to address the nearly 10% property crime increase there. Still, some residents are fed up.
“There is definitely frustration,” he said. “Once you are a victim of crime you look at things differently. I think people will learn and become aware when they hear more of these things happening.”
Parts of South Los Angeles saw troubling increases in violent crime this year. The area experienced its deadliest August since 2007, with 15 people killed in the last two weeks of the month.
LAPD commanders deployed Metro, a squad with a reputation for hard-charging tactics, to some of those hot spots and also partnered with gang intervention workers. By the fall, the homicide numbers in the area had returned to levels comparable to recent years.
City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents the area, praised police for increasing patrols without creating an oppressive atmosphere for residents.
“There is the knee-jerk reaction of sending in the cavalry to occupy the streets, and I think they resisted that instinct,” Harris-Dawson said. “I think their integration in the community makes it much easier for the community to work with the police rather than be concerned about what the police might do.”
Since the Metro expansion began in July, citywide violent crime figures dropped 1 percentage point, while the property crime rate did not change.
Police officials said they believe their strategies are showing signs of success. The Metro unit has taken 236 guns off the streets since July, nearly three times as many as in the first half of the year, Moore said. Felony arrests by Metro officers have also tripled, he said.
But end-of-the-year violent crime figures all showed increases: Police reported 280 homicides, up 10.2% from last year, and 1,097 shooting victims, a 12.6% increase.
Rapes were up 8.6% and robberies rose 12.3%, while the biggest change came in the category of aggravated assault, which climbed 27.5%.
Some portion of the increase in serious assaults was the result of improvements in how the department classifies those offenses, Moore said. LAPD officials launched reforms after a 2014 Los Angeles Times investigation found widespread errors in how assaults were classified.
All 21 LAPD divisions reported crime increases this year.
LAPD’s Central Division — which includes parts of downtown, skid row and Chinatown — led the city in both violent and property crime increases. Although the violent crime rate dropped by 15 percentage points since the summer, property crime was up slightly in the second half of the year.
LAPD officials noted that other large U.S. cities have also reported more homicides this year, including New York, Chicago and Houston.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported more modest increases, with violent crime rising 5.5% and property crime up 8.2% through the end of November compared with the same period last year.
Mayor Eric Garcetti allocated an extra $5.5 million for the city’s Gang Reduction & Youth Development program. He also directed the expansion of Domestic Abuse Response Teams, groups of civilian workers who accompany police officers on domestic violence calls.
Despite the increase in crime, the city remains safer than at any time since the 1950s, said Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for Garcetti.
“But that’s little comfort to those whose lives have been impacted by crime,” Curry said in a statement.