LA Homicides on Course to Increase for First Time in 8 Years

Several communites saw a combined 10 homicides within just 48 hours

By Patrick Healy
|  Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013  |  Updated 7:18 AM PDT
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An outburst of shootings this past weekend in LA County sharply contradicts years of a declining overall crime rate. With 10 homicides in nine cities, one possible reason for the surge in violence is the media attention they attract. Patrick Healy reports from Culver City for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Sept. 23, 2013.

Patrick Healy

An outburst of shootings this past weekend in LA County sharply contradicts years of a declining overall crime rate. With 10 homicides in nine cities, one possible reason for the surge in violence is the media attention they attract. Patrick Healy reports from Culver City for NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Sept. 23, 2013.

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After decades of declining crime rates, Los Angeles County was jolted by a weekend in which 10 people died at nine locations in seven communities. There is no pattern apparent to law enforcement officials, nor academics who study criminal justice.

"I'd want a lot more evidence before thinking anything systematic is happening," said Mark A.R. Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs.

However, there is research that indicates an increase in violence levels sometimes follows mass shootings and their attendant media coverage, Kleiman said, Last week, a dozen people were shot to death at the Naval Shipyard in Washington, DC.

For decades, the overall crime rate has been going down. Last year, there were fewer homicides in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department jurisdiction, 166, than in any previous year since 1970. Year to date, violent crime over-all has dropped 25.59 percent, according to sheriff's department statistics.

More recently, however, the trend has been slowing.

Some categories of crime, particularly property, have actually nudged back up -- even some violent crimes. In fact, at the end of August, the deparment counted 112 homicides so far this year, an increase of three from the same time last year.

If the trend continues, this would be the first year since 2005 that the number of homicides increased from the previous year.

Kleiman sees no reason why crime rates cannot continue to drop, but believes policy changes must be made to provide closer supervision of felons who have been released on parole or probation.

He also believes violations of terms should lead to immediate re-incarceration, if only "flash" holds for a few days, so offenders learn they cannot avoid consequences. By shifting emphasis from expanding cell capacity to increasing supervision, Kleiman believes the incarceration population can be safely reduced.

Crime rate is not the only metric the criminal justice system needs to monitor, in his view.

"We have one percent of our entire adult population behind bars. Our mass incarceration problem is now a social issue the size of our crime problem," Kleiman said.

Crime rates are close to mid-60s' levels. But incarceration rates have increased five-fold. That's the rate society next needs to focus on reducing, Kleiman advocates.

The gathering of weekend homicide reports from from multiple jurisdictions was first published in a Los Angeles Times article.

 

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