Los Angeles got below 300 homicides for 2010, putting the murder rate at something like a 50-year low. NPR ran a nice piece on the accomplishment, in which I was quoted.
The interview was long and wide-ranging, and of course not everything could fit into the final story, but though I have nothing to complain about in the way I was treated my quotes don’t include what I took to be the central point: that crime rates move for many reasons, and it’s dangerous to base policy judgments on year-to-year fluctuations, in this particular case the decline in gang homicides is directly attributable to the new policies put in place by Chief Charlie Beck when he ran the South Bureau. The move away from “fighting gangs” and toward “preventing gang homicide” (and, in particular, preventing the predictable next homicide after a gang shooting) made all the difference, and Beck and his troops are entitled to the credit.
LA hadn’t really changed its gang stategy since Zoot Suit days, and turning it around wasn’t easy. That’s one advantage of CompStat’s focus on “the numbers;” sometimes it forces a change in even the most sacred organizational taboos.