Newsletter: Essential California: Violent crime in L.A. drops for the first time in five years

Los Angeles Police Department recruits undergo inspection during a graduation ceremony.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Dec. 29. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


For the first time in five years, violent crime was down in Los Angeles in 2018. The data mirror an overall drop in crime this year in the parts of L.A. County patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, as well as San Francisco and Oakland. The trend is notable amid the debate over whether criminal justice reforms in California have resulted in a crime spike. Los Angeles Times

Plus: An in-depth look at California criminal justice reform and whether there are ties to a spike in crime in 2012 and 2015. Los Angeles Times


Manhunt ends

A man who was in the country illegally and had known gang ties was arrested Friday in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Stanislaus County, ending a statewide manhunt that got the attention of President Trump. The suspect’s brother and a co-worker, both of whom were also in the country illegally, were arrested on charges related to allegedly hindering the investigation. Los Angeles Times

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A “very close friend”: In Larry Ellison, does Tesla finally have a titan who will stand up to Elon Musk? Los Angeles Times

Another threat: President Trump threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border as he sought to shift blame for a partial federal government shutdown that appeared likely to stretch into 2019 over funding for the president’s proposed border wall. Los Angeles Times


Stunning visual essay: Ten years after the Oscar Grant killing at Fruitvale Station in the Bay Area and all that it changed. San Francisco Chronicle

New police profiling law: For months, California police have been quietly making assumptions about sexual orientation, gender, age and other characteristics of the people they stop as part of a statewide, legally mandated data collection effort to understand and curb racial and identity profiling. But how accurate is that information? San Diego Union-Tribune

RIP: Fans are mourning KTLA anchorman Chris Burrous, who was found unresponsive in a motel room and died at age 46. Los Angeles Times

Painful to relive: Haunting videos from the Camp fire. Mercury News

Here we go again? Is it too early to talk about the next drought? Sacramento Bee


The Confetti Project: If New Year’s Eve rolls around and you find yourself spinning dizzily in a shower of confetti like a toddler in falling snow, you might be doing more than celebrating. You might be making art. Los Angeles Times

Theme parties: Sofia Coppola on New Year’s Eve style and more. Wall Street Journal

Look out, world: Is the “Black Mirror” interactive holiday special going to change television forever? Los Angeles Times

Speaking of interactivity: Pick your own review. You can choose this Los Angeles Times review or that one.

BEST OF 2018

Essential California is continuing our annual list of California’s best reads of the year. Look for more through Jan. 1.


She was in Paradise and surrounded by flame. But she had her phone so she called her daughter to say goodbye. By Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times

Well before the beginning of the gay rights movement, a man walked into a courtroom in California and declared he was homosexual. The incredible tale of this unsung hero. By Peyton Thomas, The Atavist

When some Trump supporters attacked a reporter at a rally in Huntington Beach, it showed the impunity in which white hate groups operated. An inside look at how across the country many looked the other way at public racism. By A.C. Thompson, Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham, ProPublica

These time bandits stole millions of dollars’ worth of luxury watches from high-end stores across Southern California. How they made an art out of “smash and grab” until their luck ran out. By Amy Wallace, GQ

The bro culture of Silicon Valley is much worse than you might think, fueled by drugs, sex, ego and VC money. “While the guys get laid, the women get screwed.” By Emily Chang, Vanity Fair

A Southern California company created a helicopter for the masses. But beyond booming sales, a Times investigation finds a troubling safety record. By Kim Christensen and Ben Welsh, Los Angeles Times



1. How will California’s new laws affect you? Los Angeles Times

2. Long Beach’s mayor weds his longtime partner. Press-Telegram

3. Whoops: Feds say the California Real ID card isn’t compliant with the law. Mercury News

4. “Happy New Year! May your city never become San Francisco, New York or Seattle.New York Times

5. Wall? See what’s in place already on the United States’ southern border. New York Times


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.