Crime in Los Angeles
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|Crime rates* (2016)|
|Total violent crime||927.7|
|Motor vehicle theft||463.9|
|Total property crime||2,223.7|
*Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
Source: Los Angeles Police Department Crime Statistics 2013
Crime in Los Angeles has varied throughout time, reaching peaks between the 1970s and 1990s.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that crime had declined in the city for the 10th consecutive year. In 2013, Los Angeles reported 296 homicides in the city proper, which corresponds to a rate of 6.3 per 100,000 population—a notable decrease from 1980, when the all time homicide rate of 34.2 per 100,000 population was reported for the year.
In 2014, there were 260 homicides, at a rate of 6.7 per 100,000 people.
In 2015, it was revealed that the LAPD had been under-reporting crime for eight years, making the crime rate in the city appear much lower than it really is. Approximately 14,000 assaults went unreported as "minor offenses" rather than violent crimes. Additionally, recent years have seen more crime in the increasingly gentrified downtown area. However, these inaccuracies do not affect the general downward trend in crime in Los Angeles.
The city is patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Zoot Suit Riots (1943)
A series of murders that occurred on March 18, 1936 in the Los Angeles, Lincoln Heights area. An equal rights meeting led by both illegal and legalized immigrants, mostly Latino and Italian, were met with force by the LAPD under the order of Frank L. Shaw. Rather than disband the rally, the LAPD brutalized them, spilling blood on the streets of Griffin, Mozart, Car, and Baldwin. Thirty-three protesters were injured, nineteen dead, five LAPD officers were recorded wounded, with one dead. While many of the deaths and injuries fell onto the equal rights protesters, there was an unnamed casualty at the time in order to cover the law-breaking of the police force. Sandra Vespucci, an Italian youth living on Baldwin street at the time, was killed by a stray bullet in front of her home. Shortly after the bloodshed, many of the officers involved were forced to resign by Mayor Shaw.
Battle of Sunset Strip (1947–1956)
During the early 1930s-early 1940s, during the Prohibition Era, organized crime in Los Angeles as well as Las Vegas was ruled by Jewish-American east coast mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Italian-American crime boss Jack Dragna, who was boss of the Los Angeles crime family, who succeeded as boss of the family after the disappearance of former Los Angeles crime boss Joseph Ardizzone in 1931.
After Siegel's murder on June 20, 1947, his lieutenant Mickey Cohen inherited Siegel's rackets, creating his own crime family and a turf war began with Jack Dragna and the Los Angeles crime family for control of Siegel's former territories and organized crime in Los Angeles in general. The war lasted nine years, with shootouts and violent confrontations occurring on a daily basis on both the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Blvd, as well as other neighborhoods and regions in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. Many mobsters were killed during the war, particularly on Cohen's side, as well as many attempts on Cohen's life, including the bombing of Cohen's home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Several Mafia families from the Midwest and East Coast backed either Cohen or Dragna. In 1956, Dragna died of a heart attack and ultimately led Cohen to win the war. Mickey Cohen himself would die from stomach cancer in 1976.
Watts Riots (1965)
The riots began on August 11, 1965, in Watts, when Lee Minikus, a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, pulled Marquette Frye over. Minikus believed Frye was intoxicated because of observing his driving which Minikus believed to be erratic. While police questioned Marquette Frye and his brother Ronald Frye, a group of people began to gather. The mob began to throw rocks and other objects and shout at the police officers. A struggle ensued shortly after Frye's mother, Rena, arrived on the scene, resulting in the arrest of all three family members.
As a result of the riots, 34 people were officially reported killed (28 of those were African American), 1,032 people were injured, and 4,000 people were arrested. Among the dead were a fireman, an L.A. County deputy sheriff and a Long Beach police officer. The injured included 773 civilians, 90 Los Angeles police officers, 136 firefighters, 10 national guardsmen, and 23 persons from other governmental agencies. 118 of those injured were injured by firearms.
Six-hundred buildings were damaged or destroyed, and an estimated $35 million in damage was caused. Most of the physical damage was confined to businesses that were said to have caused resentment in the neighbourhood due to perceived unfairness. Homes were not attacked, although some caught fire due to proximity to other fires.
The crack epidemic (1984–1990)
Crack cocaine first began to be used on a massive scale in Los Angeles in 1984. Between February and July 1984 cocaine abuse and related violence had exploded to unprecedented levels in the city, and by 1985, crack was available in most of the major American cities. South Central, where the crack cocaine problem was the worst in the country, became the site of many police raids. Previously unknown gangs were growing and new ones were emerging. The rap music genre, TV shows and movies portrayed that part of Los Angeles as a no-go zone and a highly violent area.
The 1992 Los Angeles Riots, also known as the Rodney King uprising or the Rodney King riots, were sparked on April 29, 1992 when a jury acquitted four police officers accused in the videotaped violent and brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King when he allegedly resisted arrest following a high-speed car chase. Thousands in the Los Angeles area joined in a race riot involving acts of law-breaking, including looting, assault, arson and murder, seeing in King an example of injustice against minorities in the United States. The situation became too difficult to be handled by local police, and the California Army National Guard as well as federal soldiers and Marines were called in. About 5 National Guardsmen were injured during the riots. Overall, 63 people died during the riots.
1997 North Hollywood shootout
The 1997 North Hollywood shootout was an armed confrontation between two heavily armed and armored bank robbers, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu, and patrol and SWAT officers of the Los Angeles Police Department in North Hollywood, California on February 28, 1997. It occurred when responding patrol officers engaged Phillips and Mătăsăreanu leaving the robbed bank. Seventeen officers and civilians were wounded before both robbers were killed. Phillips and Mătăsăreanu had previously robbed several banks prior to their attempt in North Hollywood and were notorious for their heavy armament, which included automatic rifles.
Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums, usually known as C.R.A.S.H., was a special unit of the Los Angeles Police Department established in the early 1970s to combat the rising problem of gangs in Los Angeles, California. Each of the 18 divisions had a C.R.A.S.H. unit whose primary goal was to suppress the influx of gang-related crimes in Los Angeles that came about primarily due to the increase in narcotics trade. C.R.A.S.H was also used in the popular game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as an antagonist organization.
The Rampart scandal refers to widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (C.R.A.S.H.) anti-gang unit of the LAPD Rampart Division in the late 1990s. More than 70 police officers in the CRASH unit were implicated in misconduct, making it one of the most widespread cases of documented police misconduct in United States history. The convicted offenses include unprovoked shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of evidence, frameups, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury, and covering up evidence of these activities.
The Los Angeles May Day mêlée
On May 1, 2007, at MacArthur Park, a rally formed to raise awareness of prejudice against, and demands for amnesty for undocumented workers. As the rally continued, police attempted to break up the rally. Most rally participants dispersed peacefully, but some attacked the police with bottles and rocks. The police utilized less-than-lethal weapons and engaged in pushing and kicking in ways that many viewed as excessive.
South Central L.A.
South Los Angeles, formally known as South Central Los Angeles was once a notoriously dangerous region of the City of Los Angeles which has had an extensive history of gang violence started in the 1920s with white gangs being replaced by black and Hispanic gangs for decades. However gang activity and crime has rapidly declined in the entire South Los Angeles region since the mid 2000s and is continuing to drop to this day, due to current redevelopment and heavy gentrification.
South Central had become a byword for urban decay; its former bad reputation was spread by numerous movies such as Colors, South Central, Menace II Society, Poetic Justice, Tales from the Hood, Friday, Thicker Than Water, Training Day and in particular, South Central native John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood. Even more recent films such as Baby Boy, Harsh Times, Dirty, Gridiron Gang, Waist Deep, Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club, Street Kings and End of Watch, including drama series such as Southland, Law & Order: LA and The Closer had continued the poor image. Those images of South Central; along with Long Beach, Compton, and even Watts; had been portrayed in West Coast Gangsta Rap and G-Funk songs, as well as in video games such as Call of Juarez: The Cartel, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto V.
Crips and Bloods feud
After the FBI cracked down on black political organizations in the late 1960s, a social vacuum formed among black adolescents living in former South Central Los Angeles. Into this vacuum came two new gangs: the Crips and the Bloods. Conflict immediately arose between the two rival gangs. In the next 40 years, fighting between the two gangs took more than 15,000 lives to date. The cause of the feud is best expressed as a "kill or be killed" culture described by T. Rodgers of the Black P Stones, as "You better respect me. You better fear me." Speaking in a 2007 film documentary, a former Crip, named Pete, who survived to his middle years, said,
- These wars go farther back than most of these kids been around. A lot of 'em [are] not sure about why the war was goin' on. They [simply] STARTED DOIN' WHAT WAS BEIN' DONE. 
The problem began with poverty and segregation, but had worsened with drugs, family separation and parental incarceration. The key to improving things, according to former LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is education.
A 2003 comparison of twin psychological studies by the Lancet and Rand corporations discovered that the average child in South Los Angeles exhibits greater levels of post-traumatic stress disorder than children of a similar age in war-torn Baghdad, Iraq.
San Fernando Valley
Although not as well documented as other regions of Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley minority community has been plagued by gang-related crime and violence. Crimes related to gang violence have generally declined over the mid 2000s however, since 2014, gang-related crime has increased in the west San Fernando Valley by 63% according to Charles Crumpley, publisher and editor of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. In order to combat the gang violence, the Los Angeles Police Department launched a campaign of gang injunctions across the Valley. Gang injunction is a variation of a restraining order issued by U.S. courts that prohibits gang members in a certain area from participating in specific activities.
Early '90s to Mid 2000s: Gang Injunctions and its Implications
At the turn of the century, gang-related crime that includes murder, robbery, rape, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny and theft, were a frequent occurrence in the San Fernando Valley. In order to combat the increase in violent crimes, the Los Angeles Police Department's Foothill Division deployed a campaign of gang injunction across the Valley. In April of 1993, the Department embarked on the Blythe Street gang injunction that encompassed sections of the Devonshire and Van Nuys police divisions. Although not made permanent until February of 2000, between 1993 and 2001, there have been a total of 60 arrests; 40 of which were related to a direct violation of the injunction and the rest were indirect arrests due to the discovery of another crime while investigating a violation of the injunction. The gang injunctions in the early 2000s were successful in reducing violent crimes in the San Fernando Valley however, many are convinced that the injunctions against the gangs of the Valley are the reason for the expansion of gang-related crimes in surrounding areas.
After the injunction of the Blythe Street Gang in April of 1993, a 45 page report released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California stating that even though the rate of violent crimes were reduced in the Blythe Street neighborhood, the injunction had contributed to the spread of gang-related crime in the surrounding neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley. The critics of gang injunctions argued that these procedures ultimately created a stronger sense of gang cohesiveness, a heightened resentment toward law enforcement, and spread gang members into surrounding neighborhoods resulting in higher violent crime rates in those neighborhoods. However, these reports were met by a cold shoulder from law enforcement, especially from Assistant City Attorney, Martin Vranicar Jr., the city's top gang prosecutor at the time. Los Angeles Police Lt. Fred Tuller further shut down the reports by expressing to the media that these methods had worked in the Valley and the crimes associated with the Blythe Street Gang had decreased in the area. Since the mid 2000s, gang-related crime has decreased 5-10% without major spill-over into other neighborhoods but has spiked since 2014 according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
2014 to 2016
After a period of steady declines in gang-related crime during the 2000s, the San Fernando Valley experienced one of the lowest periods of violent crimes from 2012-2014. However, the Los Angeles Police Department has reported that violent, gang-related crimes has increased by 63% from 2014-2015. The cause for the cycle of crime might be attributed to a number of different factors that may include money, narcotics sales, or the release of a prolific gang member from prison looking to recruit members for his crew. Gang-related murders in LAPD's Devonshire, Topanga and West Valley's division more than doubled from 3 in 2014 to 8 in 2016 with the Topanga division experiencing the sharpest increase. The Topanga division reported 0 homicides in 2014 compared to 5 gang-related homicides reported in 2015. In the West San Fernando Valley, there were a total of 848 gang-related crimes in 2016, which is a 33% increase from crimes reported in 2014.
During the prohibition era the waters of the South Coast were a popular smuggling route in for alcohol. Largely forgotten in the later parts of the 20th Century, with increased security at the Mexico–United States border smuggling has increased; during the 2011 fiscal year, more than 200 smuggling vessels were observed. Most of the vessels attempt to off load their cargo of drugs and/or illegal immigrants in San Diego County, however destinations are as far north as the California Central Coast. Often, vessels used for smuggling operations are abandoned upon making landfall.
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