L.A. crime rates dropped in 2019, but officials say improvements still needed

Los Angeles officials say although the city's various crime rates were lower in 2019 compared to 2018, with the chief of police calling this one of "the safest times in Los Angeles,'' there is still room for improvement.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said he was encouraged that the number of homicides was down from 260 in 2018 to 253, a 2.7% drop and the lowest rate of homicides per capita since 1962. Violent crimes throughout the city also went down 5.5% compared to 2018.

Moore said he is proud that officers continue to go into the community to "find and build partnerships, to overcome some of the obstacles of the past, some of the ghosts and troubles of our history, and build new relationships that involves a safer Los Angeles.''

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was pleased that the department also took the most firearms off the street in 2019 than in any year in the last decade. 

In 2019, LAPD confiscated or were given nearly 7,000 firearms. Moore noted the outlook wasn't good at the beginning of  2019, as the
city was on pace to outdo the previous year's total due to an uptick in gang violence. He said gang-related crimes noticeably dropped in late March, following the murder of famed rapper Nipsey Hussle.

"While we saw reduction in violent crime last year, and property crime ... the first quarter, we had some real problems,'' Moore said. "We saw an increase in violent crimes, in particularly in some our most dangerous communities and communities that were suffering from gang violence and shooting violence.''

Overall gang crime activity was down 6.3% and gang-related violence was down 14% in 2019 compared to 2018, the chief said. Property crimes were also down 7.4%.

Garcetti said certain technology that was been utilized by LAPD in the last year and more community outreach has likely contributed to the reduced crime throughout the city, as officers can now file reports from remote locations, and minor crimes can be reported through the department's online database, which results in more hours officers can patrol the city and speak with community members.

Moore said although hit-and-run crashes overall edged down, hit-and-runs resulting in injury or death increased.

"Hit-and-run (fatalities) in the city of Los Angeles is a troubling challenge for us,'' Moore said. 

Officer-involved shootings totaled 33, down 20% from 2018 and a 40% drop compared to 2017. Garcetti and Moore also addressed the department's response to reports that some officers allegedly falsified documents during traffic stops, which resulted in some people being labeled as gang members. The LAPD has reassigned 20 officers -- 10 of them to home duty and 10 others taken off patrol duties.

The District Attorney's Office is investigating and weighing whether to file criminal charges.

"We're obviously very troubled,'' Garcetti said. "I think the chief made the right move to take action.''

Garcetti said it's important to treat the situation like detecting a disease early, saying he hopes if there is any wrongdoing on the officers' part that it's contained to just those officers and hasn't spread to the rest of the department.

"I apologize to the public that we're in the midst of this examination, but I also encourage all the public to recognize 13,000 men and
women, the vast majority of who every day do the best job,'' Moore said. "When people fall short of that standard, it embarrasses us and hurts us even more.''

The mayor also said he's confident that the Board of Police Commissioners and Office of the Inspector General will be diligent in
furthering the investigation. The board authorized the inspector general to initiate its own investigation into the matter on Tuesday.