Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna and Mayor Robert Garcia announced Long Beach murder totals for 2017 were lowest in recorded history. Photo by Jason Ruiz.
Mayor Robert Garcia and Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) Chief Robert Luna announced Wednesday morning that the city had recorded its lowest murder total in Long Beach recorded history as the city saw a drop in homicides of over 30 percent over last year’s total.
The mayor and Luna made the announcement from the steps of LBPD headquarters in downtown noting that citywide murders had dropped to 22 last year, 11 less than the number of murders recorded in 2016. Within those numbers gang-related murders also dropped from 19 in 2016 to 11 last year, accounting for a smaller fraction of the overall citywide homicides. Last year’s total is the lowest since the city began recording figures in 1968.
“We’re very aware that every single number is attached to a person, there’s a family behind those numbers, that there are friends and loved ones, so whenever we report numbers it’s important to note that there are real victims in these tragedies,” Garcia said. “But today is also bittersweet for the city of Long Beach. This past year we will have recorded the lowest number of murders in the city’s history.”
While the citywide crime figures have yet to be released—they’re expected to be made public in the coming weeks—the crime totals posted by the department that run through the end of November 2017 showed an increase in violent crime (20 percent) but a decrease in overall crime of about 2 percent. The figure incorporates property and violent crime.
Long Beach has not seen a murder total below 30 since 2011 and has averaged 29.4 homicides per year since that year. Other major cities across the country that have reported their year-end murder figures have been a mixed bag of increase and decrease.
— Jason Ruiz (@JasonRuiz_LB) January 3, 2018
Chicago saw its murder total drop from 754 in 2016 to 644 in 2017 and New York also saw a drop in its homicide total recording its lowest total in decades. However, cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Kansas City all saw rises in their year-end murder totals.
The Los Angeles Times reported last month that the countywide murder total dropped from 2010 in 2016 to 167 last year, with gang-related murders making up over half that total.
Luna said that the department’s ability to fight crime has been multifaceted. The increase in funding the department has received through the voter-approved Measure A sales tax increase has allowed the city to hire more officers and also pay existing officers overtime. That, combined with a recent agreement with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority that allows LBPD officers to police the Blue Line in Long Beach has added over 40 officers to the force.
The department has also received grants from the state and federal government and one-time funding sources from city council that have bolstered the department’s ability to prevent crimes from occurring but also investigate them through the use of increased data analytics and an increase in the number of homicide detectives.
However, both Luna and Garcia pointed to the relationship between the community and the LBPD, and a trust that has been established between the two as a factor that has played into the reduction in crime in the city.
“We would not be able to accomplish these historic lows without the teamwork and assistance of our other city departments,” Luna said. “I want to personally thank those in our community that have stepped up to be part of the solution. By reporting suspicious activity, taking proactive steps to report crime or providing our department with critical information regarding criminal activity, our community is taking ownership and playing a very pivotal role in the safety of our city.”
Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz__LB on Twitter.
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