The number of homicides in Los Angeles in 2017 dropped 4 percent from the previous year, and it was down more than 50 percent from two decades ago, Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said Wednesday.
"We're proud of that, but we still have a lot of work to do," Beck said.
There were 282 homicides in Los Angeles in 2017, compared with 294 the previous year and 569 in 1997, Beck said. The statistics included victims who died in one year but who were attacked in a different year.
"We're safer than we've ever been, but we're not safe enough," Beck said.
Although the overall homicide rate in 2017 decreased compared with 2016, the gang-related homicide rate increased, Beck said.
Of the 282 homicides in 2017, 62.8 percent of them -- 177 -- were gang- related. Of the 294 homicides in 2016, 53.4 percent of them -- 157 -- were gang-related, Beck said.
The percentage of gang-related homicides that involved firearms in 2017 rose from 72 percent to 93 percent, Beck said.
"Anybody that works homicide anywhere in the country knows that gang-related homicides ... are the hardest to solve, because nobody comes forward," he said.
When asked about the best strategy to combat violent street gangs, Beck cited the importance of community members trusting in the police department and coming forward to report crimes and become witnesses against criminals.
And Beck said law enforcement authorities made mistakes in the 1990s when they "relied primarily on deportation" as a tactic in fighting gangs such as MS-13, whose members, he said, often went back to El Salvador, regrouped and got stronger, and then came back to this country.
The key, Beck said, was prosecuting gang members in this country, with the support of the communities that are being targeted by the criminals.
"The things that we are doing work," Beck said. "We're not immigration police; we will never be immigration police."
Beck said within the homeless population, there were 44 homicide victims and 33 homicide suspects, a statistic that was tracked by his department for the first time.