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Feb 2009
Bratton: No recession crime wave

Daily News Editorial

Los Angeles police chief expects no rise in crime in 2009. Conventional wisdom has it that when the economy heads south, crime rates head north.

It seems like common sense as well. When times are desperate, people are more apt to go to desperate measures. And with thousands more people out of work, that's a lot of idle hands to get into mischief.

Police Chief William Bratton isn't buying into that conventional thinking, however. At least not when it comes to the city of Los Angeles. Bratton told the Los Angeles Daily News editorial board earlier this month that despite the mounting job losses in the city, he doesn't expect the crime rate to rise over the next year. Moreover, he says it will continue its downward trend.

That's a fantastic goal, but one that many find hard to believe at the moment. Bratton might be the country's top cop, but there's only so much officers can do to prevent certain crimes short of locking everyone in their homes at night. And some of those are likely to get worse. Domestic violence for one. According to experts, money is the No. 1 reason that couples fight and since nearly everyone has less of it this year, the recession will put the pressure on some already volatile relationships.

Still, Bratton has had a lot of success with a city that had earned a global reputation as a dangerous, deadly place that could spark into near civil war with just a little provocation. With the commitment of the mayor and the City Council, Bratton has put hundreds of new officers on the street and is getting within reach of the 1,000 new officers Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised.

And there's good reason to believe that Bratton isn't just engaging in wishful thinking. So far this year, most crimes are down from the same period in 2008 - a point in time when the economy was in much better shape and before the thousands of job losses last fall and this winter.

Bratton will certainly be put through the test. Forecasters say the recession is only going to get worse this year, putting more people out of work and increasing the ranks of the desperate. But we'll be rooting for Bratton to deliver and for the city leaders to continue to support the Los Angeles Police Department's efforts to drive down crime to unprecedented lows.



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