LOS ANGELES – Crime in Los Angeles fell in 2008 for the sixth consecutive year, challenging the widely held theory that crime rises at times of economic tumult.
The continued crime drop, while less pronounced than previous years, comes even as other major cities, including New York and Chicago, have seen increases in some crimes.
Violent crimes – such as homicides and rapes – and crimes involving thefts in Los Angeles were down about 2.5 percent through Saturday compared with the same period last year, according to Los Angeles Police Department figures. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which handles law enforcement for dozens of other cities and in unincorporated areas, reported a 6 percent drop in such crimes committed through the end of November. In all, the declines have amounted to about 8,500 fewer serious crimes committed this year.
The numbers are striking in part because some officials – notably Sheriff Lee Baca – predicted a year ago that the declining economy probably would result in crime spikes.
“Expectation of having more crime occur in dire economic times is practical expectation that has been evident from other cycles of depressed times,” Baca said. “We aren’t experiencing real hard economic times yet. In my opinion, we have to prepare ourselves that things could get worse.”
The last time the U.S. economy faltered over a prolonged period, Los Angeles fared badly. Throughout 1991 and 1992, with the city’s unemployment rate hovering between 8 percent and 10 percent and the crack cocaine epidemic in full swing, crime soared to levels roughly three times the current rate.
The number of homicides in Los Angeles continued to slow to lows not seen for decades. With four days left in the year, 376 people had been killed in the city – 33 fewer killings compared with the same period last year. The figure marks a 25 percent drop from the 506 people slain five years ago and is far below the peak of 1,092 killings the city recorded in 1992.