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Crime in LA up, Chief Beck says it's too early to know why

After declining for more than a decade, crime rates in Los Angeles were on the rise for the first half of the year, according to LAPD statistics released Wednesday.

Violent crimes including robberies and aggravated assaults jumped by 20.6 percent during the first six months of the year, compared with the first half of 2014. Property crimes, including burglaries and auto thefts, jumped by 10.9 percent.  

"This is bad news," Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news conference at LAPD headquarters.

Police Chief Charlie Beck called 2015 "a very tough year for policing," but he added that crime over the last three months has ticked downward.

Violent crime was up nearly 30 percent in the first quarter, compared with the 20.6 percent figure for the entire first half of the year. Beck cited the expansion of the LAPD’s elite Metro unit as one strategy that is helping to slow the increase.

"We’ve made considerable progress," he said.

The one bright spot in the statistics: the murder rate fell by 6.7 percent. There were 126 murders during the first six months of the year, compared with 135 in the first half of 2014.

But shootings – long a problem in gangland Los Angeles – went up. The number of victims increased by 18.5 percent, to 532. Gang-related crimes increased by about the same percentage.

Many law enforcement leaders in California have predicted that recently-enacted prison reforms would result in higher crime. Prison realignment and Proposition 47 reduced sentences and relaxed supervision for people whose latest crimes were nonviolent and non-serious.

"Proposition 47 cannot be taken out of the equation," Beck said. But he added there is no data to support that yet, noting that several statewide studies are underway.

Beck also cited a rise in homelessness as a possible reason for the increase in crime. "The city has seen an increase in folks who live on the street who are more likely to be involved in violent incidents," he said.

Beck pointed to a 6 percent increase in domestic violence and an increase in gang-related crimes as other reasons.

"Its really the totality of these things," he said.

Criminal justice experts have said it’s too early to determine whether the increase in crime is related to changes in incarceration policies, and whether it represents a longer term trend.  They note crime remains at historic lows.

Compared with 2008, violent crime in L.A. for the first half of 2015 is down 17.4 percent, and homicides are down 36.7 percent.

LAPD has archived Beck and Garcetti's press conference from this morning. You can watch it here