The officers and detectives of the LAPD’s Northeast Division have kept busy this year dealing with burglaries in Silver Lake, street robberies in Highland Park and car break-ins across Echo Park. But there has been one notable crime that has been so far absent from the 29-square-mile division: homicide. For the first time in many years, no one has been murdered in the Northeast Division – home to 250,000 people – during the first three months of the year. “It’s quiet,” said Northeast Lt. John Cook this morning, reporting another night without deadly violence. In contrast, last year the Northeast Division, which also includes – Atwater, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park and other communities – was the scene of 5 murders during the first three months of the year; in 2008 there were 12 murders during the same period, said Northeast Capt. Bill Murphy.
The drop in homicides and a reduction in gang killings in the Highland Park area means that Murphy has been able shift attention to deal with other issues and hot spots. “Now I’m spending the majority of my time in other communities – Silver Lake, Los Feliz, East Hollywood,” Murphy said. “I can shift gears and focus more on property crimes.”
The Northeast Division has so far avoided a recent uptick in killings across the city, including recent two murders in Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights. There are all kinds of theories as to what raises and lowers murder rates and what law enforcement can do about it. But Murphy said that perhaps the biggest factor behind the lack of murders in his division has been the ongoing crackdown on some of the Eastside’s most violent street gangs, notably the Avenues, Toonerville and Drew Street. “We took a lot of their leadership out … that helped tremendously,” Murphy said. He also credits gang intervention programs – such as Aztec Rising – a close check on parole violations and cooperation from residents for helping reduce gang violence -and deaths.
In addition to targeting gangs, Murphy said he’s trying to focus on deadly violence fueled by alcohol. He’s advised local clergy to help spread awareness of alcohol-related crime and is also targeting bars and liquor stores for violations.
No one knows how long Northeast’s murder-free streak will last. Violence usually increases in the summer months and the early release of prison inmates makes Murphy nervous. The early release of inmates – many of them associated with lower-level crimes – might not necessarily lead to more murders but it could worsen a dramatic increase in property crime, the Northeast Division’s biggest problem for now. So far this year, burglaries are up nearly 45% compared to last year. Last week, for example, nearly 50 cars were broken into across the division, Murphy reported in his monthly email newsletter.
Photo by bcmasac1 via Flickr