Never one to miss an opportunity to promote himself, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took the occasion Tuesday of the formal release of the LAPD’s 2010 Homicide Report showing murders at the lowest level since 1967 to declare:
“This is not just a year-end statistic. It is perhaps the most powerful statement on the state of our city and our Police Department.”
A perfect half-truth if ever there were one.
Clearly, the image of the LAPD, the performance of the LAPD, has not been better in anyone living’s lifetime — a tribute to the impact of nearly 20 years of reform efforts, the federal court consent decree, stronger leadership inside the department and strengthened civilian oversight.
The mayor says the drop in murder is due to the 800 officers added to the force since 2005 without noting most of them are doing jobs that used to be done by civilians whose numbers have been cut sharply to preserve his commitment to the magic 10,000 cops number — well almost 10,000.
But others raise questions about why the murder rate has fallen in LA and why the rate of solving the murders that do occur has suddenly dropped from 83 percent to 70 percent.
KFI’s Eric Leonard reported
that last week the LAPD didn’t have even one detective available to go to the scene of a five-victim shooting in North Hollywood because officers aren’t paid for overtime and the cap on how much can be accumulated forces them to take more time off.
With the department millions of dollars over budget, the cap is being enforced so rigorously that a police captain was formally reprimanded for ignoring the overtime cap so detectives he supervised in South L.A. could solve a murder.
Many experts in crime question just how much impact improved community relations, widespread use of video cameras, DNA testing and other police technologies have contributed to a nationwide trend that has seen dramatic drops in crime in many cities, including Chicago which reports the fewest homicides since 1965.
is instructive to look at the individual precincts and compare their
year-to-year homicides,” Lisa Smith, a professor of criminal law at Brooklyn Law School, told the Christian Science Monitor in an article about the mayor’s press conference.
“How many of those homicides
involve strangers and how many are interpersonal disputes? How many
homicides are solved versus unsolved?”
Indeed, some news reports show Watts and Westlake and some other neighborhoods still have high murder rates.
Jerry Sullivan, writing for New America Media
, noted that on the day the LA Times ran a front page story headlined ”Killing in L.A. Drops to 1967 Levels,” it ran a brief buried in the second section on the Christmas Day murder of a woman named Kashmier James, who was shot to death in front of her daughter at 85th Street and Western Avenue.
“The Times reported that there have been 137 murders within a two-mile radius of the scene of James’ death since January 2007,” Sullivan noted in questioning why mainstream media are not exploring what is going on in these homicide hotspots.
The issue of how important having nearly 10,000 LAPD officer is to keeping crime down is at the heart of the matter of what to do about the city’s massive budget deficit that is certain to get worse next year — $350 million — and far worse in the following years.
The officers’ union, the Police Protective League, has taken a strong stand against continued hiring, arguing that restoring overtime to experienced officers will do more to keep a lid on crime at a lower cost than training new recruits.
The mayor’s greatest failure is not “Ticketgate” or his gifts of enormous amounts of public money to friends and contributors. It is his failure to offer leadership to deal comprehensively with the budget crisis, offering only piecemeal solutions that have sharply reduced core services to the public while protecting officer hiring in the name of crime reduction — his only claim to fame.
“People often say that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the mayor said Tuesday. “Well, the LAPD isn’t broken, and it doesn’t need fixing to the extent that we are providing the resources that they need.
“I would submit to you that as we begin budget deliberations — we’re looking at a $360 million deficit in the coming year — our commitment to maintain the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department at least at attrition levels today will go a long way to ensuring that we’ll continue our efforts to draw down crime in the city of Los Angeles.”
The CAO/CLA report reflects the mayor’s commitment.
It is a gun to the City Council’s head to approve the sale of nine city parking lots to net $53 million after paying off $250 million in debt on them just to get through the next six months without more furloughs, more spending cuts, more cuts in services.
There is no plan to deal with next year or beyond without more of the same — a downward spiral that threatens the quality of our lives and the future of the city.
Phase 1 of the CAO/CLA plan — if the parking lot deal is rejected — calls for more juggling of funds from one account to another and another round of funding cuts to Recreation and Parks and Planning Departments and the City Attorney.
Hardest hit would be the Fire Department with a cut in funding of $10 million of the $53 million in proposed savings, putting the lives of many people at risk.
Many fire and ambulance stations already are closed on a rotating basis and deeper cuts will lead to even more. Paramedics only have four or five minutes to get to a person suffering a heart attack or other life-threatening crisis so people will die if it takes to long to get them help.
Phase 2 of the CAO/CLA plan would suspend police hiring until June and hit several other areas, including further cuts to the mayor and Council offices, to save $10 million.
What happens July 1 is anybody’s guess but it’s certain that one way or another city spending will have to be cut 10 percent more.
The city’s leadership has burned the civilian work force and the public for so long that all credibility has been lost which makes getting unions to the table for honest negotiations on how jobs and services can be preserved all but impossible — as impossible as selling the pubic on higher taxes.
This is the road to ruin. Nobody wins except the City Hall insiders and profiteers who still are feeding on the public trough.