Crime rises in the San Fernando Valley, where robbery and homicide rates outpace LA
Violent crime across Los Angeles rose for a third straight year during 2016, but spikes in homicides, robberies and property crimes across the San Fernando Valley outpaced the city as a whole, according to LAPD crime statistics released this week.
Robberies across the Valley last year rose 33 percent from 2015 — from 1,571 to 2,085 — compared with 14 percent citywide. The number of Valley homicides climbed 14 percent with 65 murders, compared with an increase of nearly 4 percent with 294 murders across Los Angeles.
“What we had this year that continues to haunt us is the number of homicides that were meth-induced,” said Deputy Chief Robert F. Green, commanding officer for the Valley Bureau and a 37-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. Green recalled one case where a man reportedly threw his mother out a window of a Van Nuys apartment. “For us to reduce crime, it’s got to be a partnership with the community.”
Last year, Los Angeles saw a wave of homicides and gang-related shootings amid a tide of homelessness that impacted crime in every corner of the city, officials said.
Violent crime on the whole rose more than 10 percent, according to LAPD statistics. That includes the 4 percent rise in homicide, 14 percent rise in robberies and a nearly 10 percent rise in aggravated assaults.
Rapes, meanwhile, fell by 2.5 percent to 1,781 total sexual assaults.
The Valley followed a similar trend, but with a steeper increase in violent crime, which rose more than 12 percent. But compared with the city as a whole, the Valley suffered fewer aggravated assaults, a nearly 6 percent increase. And a lesser increase in rapes, at 3.4 percent.
While Los Angeles experienced a 4 percent increase in property crimes — including burglaries, car break-ins and car thefts — Valley property crimes rose by nearly 6 percent.
But the upward trend in overall crime paled compared with a quarter-century ago when crime had hit an all-time high, city and law enforcement officials said. In 1992, Los Angeles suffered a record 1,094 homicides.
They attributed the recent growth in Valley crime to a state law mandating early prison releases, a state proposition that turned some felony offenses to misdemeanors and discouraged substance abusers from seeking treatment, and a rapid rise in Valley homeless.
They also point to the vast size of the Valley, where the LAPD Valley Bureau covers an area the size and population of the rest of Los Angeles.
And they point to a 36 percent uptick in homelessness this year across the San Fernando Valley, to 7,100 residents.
“We’ve seen a huge spike in the homeless population, which contributes to crime,” said Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs a public safety committee and whose district stretches across the Northwest Valley. “The misdemeanor charges from drug- and alcohol-induced crimes, from theft to burglary, are a joke.
“And we don’t have the ability now to mandate drug programs, because they’re not felonies.”
Assembly Bill 109, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2011, allowed for nonviolent, nonserious, and nonsex offenders to be released from California prisons to be supervised at the local level, a process known as realignment.
“We released a lot of ex-felons and don’t have the systems in place to care and to support them when they come out,” Green said.
Proposition 47, approved by California voters in 2014, cut some drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, which critics say stripped prosecutors of leverage to compel drug and alcohol rehab.
Both Englander and Green said the city needs to hire more police to combat crime.
They also said Los Angeles needs more community participation, from after-school programs that deter at-risk youth from crime, to intervention programs such as an LAPD Arrest Deferral Program that targets young offenders. Meanwhile, homeless residents need treatment, too.
“A significant portion of the homeless population have severe addictions to methamphetamine and heroin, and I can’t get them into treatment,” Green said. “So I have a population that is drug-addicted, living on the street, and they only thing they care about is the next fix.
“That’s why my street robberies are up, breaking into vehicles, breaking into homes.”
Some blame a greater increase in Valley crime compared with the city as a whole on a lack of resources poured into the San Fernando Valley relative to its population and tax base.
“The Valley, which votes in a higher percentage during elections, doesn’t get as much back as it pays in,” said Howard Cohen, a political analyst in North Hills. “The bottom line: The city has not addressed the increases in crime in the Valley for the past few years.
“It’s like the Valley has always gotten short shrift, period.”