A Downtown Crime Emergency

DTLA - The rising crime rate in Downtown Los Angeles is alarming. If the Central City is to remain a thriving hub for business, residential life, culture, tourism and investment, then this must be treated as an emergency. 

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Immediate and encompassing action is required. It is imperative that the police department, city leaders including elected officials, and an array of community stakeholders all come together and proceed with a sense of urgency. It will take a vigilant approach, with a focus on deterring crime, to adequately address the situation. 

Los Angeles Downtown News last week reported on the 2017 statistics from the LAPD’s Central Division, which covers most of Downtown. Violent crime jumped 21% over the previous year. Aggravated assaults increased by 31% and murders nearly doubled, from 11 in 2016 to 21 last year. There was also an increase in most property crimes.

The situation is even more jarring when one goes back several years. In 2014 there were just six killings — 15 fewer than last year. Robberies in Downtown grew from 478 in 2014 to 697 last year. Central has gone from a total of 1,133 violent crimes in 2014 to 1,996 three years later. 

An array of factors fuels the crime increase, including the very growth of Downtown. An area with more affluent residents and visitors means a greater number of potential targets for criminals. Some people also attribute rising crime to state law changes that have resulted in people being released from prison after shorter sentences than in the past. 

A lot of crime occurs in Skid Row, but crime impacts all Downtown neighborhoods. Ultimately, location doesn’t matter. Everyone deserves to be safe, no matter where they live.

Central Division leaders have an action plan. In last week’s story, LAPD Capt. Marc Reina detailed his aim to reduce foot beats and create a 10-person squadron of officers who will respond to crime hot spots. If this proves to be a smaller-scale version of the department’s elite Metropolitan Division, which has swarmed high-crime areas in the city, then we could quickly see positive results.

One of Reina’s units will focus on crime suppression in districts with persistent problems. It makes sense to work to deter crime, rather than respond to worsening numbers solely with copious arrests. Criminals who plead to misdemeanors wind up back on the streets quickly. It is obviously preferable to prevent a crime than to solve one.

This is also where those outside of law enforcement come in. A community response is required, and would-be criminals need to know that people are watching. We hope elected leaders, particularly City Councilman José Huizar, City Attorney Mike Feuer and Mayor Eric Garcetti, will orchestrate events and meetings to set up neighborhood watches and otherwise enable Downtown stakeholders to partner with the police. They will find that Downtown residents and workers will do their part to improve the community.

The rise in crime is distressing, but we have confidence that, with the right leadership, the community can be made safer.

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2018