Violent crime is up in the City of Los Angeles for the third year in a row. Gang-related crimes and a mounting number of homeless people are the top problems facing law enforcement in Los Angeles at the start of 2017. Homicides rose for the third year straight with at least 290 reported homicides in the city in 2016. That represents a 5 percent increase over 2015’s homicide figures. Aggravated assaults in L.A. were up by 10 percent and robberies increased by 13 percent.

The number of shooting victims in Los Angeles – 1,152 as of December 17 – was up by 6 percent over 2015 and up by 23 percent over 2014. Crime in Los Angeles in 2016 was increasing even in parts of the city that have been historically thought of as safe. In West Los Angeles, for example, robberies jumped by 16 percent and motor vehicle thefts were up by 31 percent. The Topanga Division of the LAPD reported a 41 percent rise in robberies and a 21 percent jump in motor vehicle thefts.

Property crimes in Los Angeles also increased for the third successive year with a 4 percent rise fueled by auto thefts. In locations policed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, crime is up for the second consecutive year. Through the end of November, the Sheriff’s Department reported that violent crime in their jurisdictions was up by 9 percent and property crimes were up by 6 percent over the 2015 crime figures. Anyone who is arrested and charged with any crime in the City or County of Los Angeles will need to contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at once.

WHAT ARE OTHER CALIFORNIA CITIES REPORTING?

Overall in Los Angeles in 2016, violent crime was up by 10 percent over 2015 and by 38 percent over 2014. While Los Angeles and Los Angeles County saw crime on the rise in 2016, other jurisdictions in California reported crimes rates that are declining. Although homicides increased there, overall crime in San Francisco was down by 10 percent in 2016 over 2015, and overall crime in Oakland dropped by 6 percent over the 2015 figure.

Early in 2016, in reaction to a jump in violent crimes and shootings, the L.A. Police Department sent additional officers into South Los Angeles to identify problem areas and increase officer visibility. But by October, although violent crime had “stabilized” in south L.A., crime in other parts of Los Angeles was increasing. As officers moved out of South L.A., the situation there immediately deteriorated, and more homicides were reported in South L.A. in October than in any other month in 2016.

South Bureau includes most of south L.A. and the San Pedro community. Overall in 2016, South Bureau reported an increase in violent crime of 15 percent over 2015 and 34 percent over 2014, with homicides and rapes both up by 6 percent, robberies up by 10 percent, and aggravated assaults up by 19 percent. Assistant Chief Michel Moore tells the Los Angeles Times that although more officers may be on the street, “It is like fighting fires – spot fires. We have a finite number of resources, and at the end of the day, the LAPD isn’t going to fix this.”

WHAT FACTORS ARE FUELING THE RISING CRIME RATE?

Assistant Chief Moore identified a variety of factors that are influencing the crime rate, such as renewed gang violence and a rise in homelessness. He also singled out Proposition 47, which was approved by California voters in 2014 and reduced several particular drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. In Los Angeles County, the jail population has dropped from 18,500 inmates before Proposition 47 to about 16,500 inmates in November 2016. Narcotics arrests have also declined, as busy police officers may decide that the possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use isn’t worth the time it takes to make an arrest.

Some police officials insist that without the possibility of a felony prosecution, defendants are now less likely to choose drug treatment as an alternative to serving time. “Unfortunately, we see that these programs are sold to the voters as having some positive impact, and so far in two years we haven’t seen that positive impact,” said Los Angeles County Assistant Sheriff Jacques La Berge. But Michael Romano, who lectures at Stanford Law School, told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s not one shred of evidence supporting the idea that Proposition 47 has had any impact on crime one way or another.”

The jump in L.A.’s crime rate comes at a time when homelessness is rapidly increasing. From January 2015 through January 2016, the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles grew by 11 percent. Across the county during the same 12 months, the homeless population grew by 5.7 percent. Assistant Chief Michel Moore tells the Times that encampments for the homeless provide both cover for criminals and “easy” targets for their crimes. In 2016, 13 L.A. homicide victims were homeless, and aggravated assaults on transients jumped 23 percent.

IS THE CRIME DATA YOU READ TRUSTWORTHY?

Crime data is often misleading and confusing, so you should probably read the reports with a healthy dose of skepticism. Many people who are crime victims simply never make a report to the police. A robbery victim may decide that the trouble and time it takes to report the robbery just isn’t worth it. Drug dealers, prostitutes, and others who routinely engage in crimes often do not report crimes against them. Unreported rapes and sexual assaults are a major concern. Observers also believe that most incidents of domestic violence and domestic abuse are not reported.

Another difficulty with crime statistics is the false accusation. Anyone who is accused – rightly or wrongly – of a felony or a misdemeanor in the City or County of Los Angeles will need the help of an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. And if you are worried about becoming a crime victim, police departments regularly remind the public that many homicide victims are gang members or people who have criminal associates. In other words, if you want to avoid being a victim, who you know is probably more important than where you live.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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