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Drop in San Fernando Valley homicides outpaces other L.A. regions

December 31, 2013|By Richard Winton and Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times | By Richard Winton and Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times
  • PACOIMA, CA - DECEMBER 30, 2013 -- L.A.P.D. Sgt. Jimmy Balderas, right, and Officer Rick Krynsky, center, keep a watchful eye out as a family passes along Van Nuys Blvd. in Pacoima on December 30, 2013. Officer Cecilia Delgado, left, writes out a traffic violation ticket for a driver, whose car is outside of frame. The Valley had only 40 homicides this year, a 35% drop from 2012, the greatest of any region in the city. Like the rest of Los Angeles, the Valley has seen killing fall sharply over the last few years. Police officials and community leaders say the decline in violence in tough parts of the Valley, notably Pacoima, Lakeview Terrace, Sun Valley and Sylmar, has been striking. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
PACOIMA, CA - DECEMBER 30, 2013 -- L.A.P.D. Sgt. Jimmy… (Genaro Molina /…)

Los Angeles recorded another large drop in homicides in 2013, and nowhere has the trend been more pronounced than in the San Fernando Valley.

The Valley had 40 homicides this year, dropping 35% from 2012 — the biggest decline of any region in the city. As recently as 2006, the region recorded 87 homicides, the Los Angeles Times reports.

When it comes to falling crime, much of the focus has been on traditionally high-crime areas like South L.A. and the Eastside. But police officials and community leaders say the decline in violence in tough parts of the Valley, notably Pacoima, Lakeview Terrace, Sun Valley and Sylmar, has also been striking.

The Homicide Report

Pacoima resident Maurilio Torres, 52, remembers driving down the narrow residential streets crammed between Branford and Osbourne streets, seeing young men carrying guns out in the open. At the local parks, he saw teens being initiated into gangs. He told his children to avoid wearing dark clothes because someone could mistake them for gang members.

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"That was scary, driving by with my kids and seeing these activities," he said. "Slowly, it's been changing. Now you can actually walk.... Now I go jogging up the street and back."

Pastor Karl Cruz, of Victory Outreach church in Sylmar, measures the decline in killings a different way.

"There was a January once when I did 10 funerals in a month," said Cruz, whose organization helps people get out of the gang life. "The deaths and shootings have declined so much, we're now able to focus on the drug problem."

Cruz points to another sign of falling crime: fewer LAPD helicopters flying overhead at night. "The 'ghetto bird' used to be the national bird of Pacoima," he said, referring to the choppers. "You don't hear it anymore. The sounds of silence is the sound of peace."

Across Los Angeles, homicides this year are down 16% from 2012, and the city is on target to end 2013 with the fewest killings since 1966. The city recorded 250 homicides this year, as of Dec. 28, compared to 298 in 2012. Across the city, overall serious crime fell for the 11th straight year — down by 5%.

Crime in Los Angeles decreased across the board. Violent crimes declined by 12%, and property crimes declined by another 4%.The number of reported rapes in the city fell by a quarter compared to 2012.

The reduction in Los Angeles homicides is part of a long-term trend seen in America's big cities —New York, Chicago and Houston also have recorded big drops in homicides.

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