Crime soaring in NYC and LA?

Last year murder rates fell across the nation. I was asked about this by the Economist magazine, and the reporter was obviously really interested in pushing the idea that this was some new trend. I said that while the drop was large there was no way to see this as some longer term trend. Now this from NYC:

Homicides are up nearly 22 percent in 2010, compared with the same period last year. Shootings are up in the city, to 293 from 257, a 14 percent increase. And there are more victims of gunfire: 351 through April 4, up from 318 in the same period a year ago. . . .

The mayor warned in January that the governor’s proposal would force the Police Department to lay off 3,150 officers, bringing the force down to same level it was in 1985. He backed off that statement last week, saying on his weekly radio program that the city was “not going to lay off cops.”

Nonetheless, the police force has been shrinking steadily, from a high of 40,285 officers in 2000, to about 35,600 last year.

Even if the cuts in the governor’s proposal were fully restored, the department’s uniformed count is still on course to drop below 33,000 through attrition by July 2011, its lowest level since 1990, when it had 32,441 officers, including housing and transit police before the departments were merged.

That was the year murders in the city peaked at 2,245, making it one of the nation’s top murder capitals. Not only is the force smaller, but it is also being pulled in more directions, with roughly 1,000 officers on counterterrorism duty. The department devotes cars and resources to a critical response team and to provide a presence near potential terrorist targets, though those resources can be redeployed to areas with elevated crime. . . .

The problem is a little more complicated here than cutting the number of police means that crime will rise. When crime initially fell, the number of police remained high. With the number of police rising or constant and the number of crimes falling, there were more police to solve each crime, further working to increase the arrest rate and reduce crime. One could thus reduce the number of police somewhat and still not get an increase in crime.

Any predictions on what is going to happen to crime rates in Los Angeles:

The city's budget crisis and cap on overtime is forcing homicide detectives to stop work for days at a time, hurting their ability to solve cases, authorities said.

Some detectives said they had to delay interviewing witnesses to killings after supervisors ordered them to take days off.

"Could this cause us to not solve a case? Sure," said Detective Chris Barling, who oversees the LAPD's South Bureau homicide unit.

The 11 detectives in the Southeast Division's homicide squad had to take off 700 hours in February despite opening five new investigations.

Nine of 14 killings reported in the area this year are unsolved.

"That is horrible compared to our typical rates," said Detective Sal LaBarbera, division supervisor. "A few of them would likely already be solved, if I could just let my guys loose to work." . . .



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