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Jul 2012
Crime down, but killings surge in San Fernando Valley

Although overall crime is down across the city of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, homicides in the Valley are up by 50 percent in the first half of 2012, according to the latest police statistics.

Through July 7, there had been 33 homicides reported in the seven LAPD divisions in the Valley, compared with 22 during the same period in 2011.

Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas, who oversees the Valley Bureau, said the uptick in homicides is concerning. But the stats also show shootings and overall violence are down.

"That's the bigger telltale sign - the overall violence," Villegas said.

The number of people shot in the Valley has declined 34 percent, from 126 to 83, while shootings citywide are down 18 percent.

The increase in homicides occurred mainly in the Foothill and North Hollywood areas, each of which has seen about double the rate of killings in 2012. Last year at this time, there had been five homicides in Foothill and three in North Hollywood. This year, there have been nine in Foothill and eight in North Hollywood.

That spike bucks the trend citywide, where homicides are almost unchanged: 153 this year, compared with 155 through July 7 last year.

Villegas said most of the Valley homicides involved killers and victims who knew each other; few were random crimes. Many of those involved were dating or part of the same family, while a few killings involved the drug trade or gang rivalries, he said.

At a news conference Tuesday downtown, police said crime is down for the 10th straight year. Some property crimes increased by about 2 percent, though, including car break-ins and personal thefts.

Police Chief Charlie Beck blamed the increases on the state's release of some nonviolent offenders, a policy known as "realignment."

"To say that (realignment) has not had an effect would be hiding from the reality of this subject," Beck said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the city is safer than it has been since 1952 and called the decade-long decline in crime a "historic positive trend."

The number of homicides puts the city on track to remain below 300 killings for the third year in a row.

"It wasn't so long ago that this city was known as the murder capital of the United States, and that is not true anymore, and it will never be true again," Beck said.

The mayor and police chief attributed a 16.2 percent drop in gang-related crimes to the city's gang intervention programs.

And Beck said the city has been able to keep the number of officers stable despite budget cuts. Villaraigosa said he would not propose any layoffs of sworn police officers.

Overall, violent crime is down almost 9 percent in the city and about 16 percent in the Valley.

Property crimes also are down 1 percent citywide and down or steady across the Valley divisions.

Even as crime is down, the number of victims remains large. So far this year, there have been 2,900 burglaries and more than 4,900 thefts from vehicles just in the Valley, for example. And Villegas said most such crimes can be prevented through simple precautions like locking doors and hiding valuables in cars.



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