About a decade after the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department began policing the streets, the Hub City is now boasting its lowest homicide rate in nearly half a century
COMPTON—Once infamous for its sky-high murder rate, the city of Compton has become a much safer place to live, with homicides falling by 16 last year, according to preliminary year-end crime data for 2010 released Monday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Compton Sheriff’s Station, which patrols the city of Compton and several county unincorporated areas in and around Compton, recorded 26 murders in 2010. That’s compared to 42 murders in 2009 and 78 in 2005. These numbers represent a 38.2 percent decrease between 2009 and 2010 and a 67.2 percent decrease over the five-year period from 2005 to 2010.
Murder isn’t the only crime to see its annual rate slashed. Part 1 crimes were down almost across the board last year compared to 2009, with burglary being the only category to see an incease (up by 8.9 percent) from 2009 to 2010. Forcible rape fell by 30.2 percent; robbery fell 1.1 percent; aggravated assault fell 8.5 percent; larceny theft fell 7.3 percent; grand theft auto fell 17.3 percent; and arson fell 50.1 percent.
According to the preliminary data, the total number of reported crimes in 2005 was 5,473. That number fell to 5,392 reported crimes in 2009, and last year, it further decreased to 4,986 reported crimes. This reflects a 10.2 percent decrease in reported crimes between 2005 and 2010 and a 7.5 percent decrease from 2009 to 2010.
Residents citywide have been saying for the last year that they haven’t felt as safe as they currently do in years. And they’ve been taking advantage of this renewed sense of ease in droves.
Today, the city’s parks are routinely packed with children at play. It is not unusual to see both children and adults riding bicycles through neighborhoods and walkers and joggers out pounding the pavement. Kids playing in front yards and seniors chatting with neighbors as they tend their gardens are also no longer uncommon sights.
During a town hall meeting last May regarding the potential return of the Compton Police Department, resident Carolyn Blake said she and her children ride their bikes down her street free of fear. Ten years ago, that simply wasn’t possible.
“Before, we could go nowhere,” said Blake, who’s called Compton home since 1958.
Other citizens have spoken similarly, including Lifelong Compton resident and City Council critic William Kemp.
“We have restaurants where we can sit outside and eat,” he said. “We couldn’t do that 10 years ago. I see people jogging in the morning and the evening. That didn’t used to happen. Our parks are filled with children. We almost don’t have drive-bys and home invasions” anymore.
A common theme emerges from sentiments such as Blake’s and Kemps’: While crime is still a serious issue, a feeling of safety has blossomed in Compton. It is something that appears to have. in some ways, restored freedom to a community that not so long ago was imprisoned by the terror ruling their neighborhoods at the hands of gangbangers and gun-toting criminals.
While an increased sense of safety cannot be solely tied to crime levels and the effectiveness of law enforcement activities, the numbers released by the Sheriff’s Department do go a long way in painting a strong correlation.
The community’s increased vigilence and willingness to work with the Sheriff’s Department to solve crimes rounds out that picture.
Compton Station Capt. Diane Walker told the Los Angeles Times that over the last decade, the community has slowly begun to trust the department as is apparent in residents’ increased willingness to provide information on crimes that have been or have yet to be committed.
“This is the culmination of a long relationship,” Walker told the Times. “Residents aren’t just calling us for emergencies anymore. They give us tips, they help us in crime prevention.”
An updated version of this post will be up later today featuring a more in-depth look at the Hub City’s tumbling crime rates, which the Nitty Gritty considers to be monumental.