NPR on LA’s homicide decline

LA murder rate hits a 50-year low. For once, the Police Department, and in particular the Chief, deserve a big slice of the credit.

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.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

2 thoughts on “NPR on LA’s homicide decline”

  1. Is that crime rates move for many reasons supposed to be that although crime rates move for many reasons

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