UPDATE: Crime down throughout county, though murders up in some areas

LOS ANGELES COUNTY — Both violent crime and property crime were down in 2011 compared with the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, with sheriff’s stations in the San Gabriel Valley reporting even more significant decreases in crime rates.
Violent crime in Los Angeles County decreased by nearly 14 percent last year, according to preliminary statistics released Wednesday by the sheriff’s department. Property crimes investigated by the sheriff’s department decreased by just under 2 percent.
“Sheriff (Lee Baca) believes that the active policing that the sheriff’s deputies are doing, the 4,000 volunteers, and Crime Stoppers, which allows allows people to submit tips anonymously, all forges together a unified community to keep crime at historic lows,” sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
“But we have to be ever vigilant as we move forward into the future,” he added.
But it isn’t all good news. At the sheriff’s Crescenta Valley, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, and Walnut-Diamond Bar station, incidents of the most serious of crimes — criminal homicide — were up significantly over the previous year. The sheriff’s Industry Station also showed a slight increase in homicides.
Homicides handled by the sheriff’s Norwalk Station more than doubled last year, when deputies investigated nine killings, up from four the previous year, according to the statistics.
At the Crescenta Valley and Walnut-Diamond Bar stations, murders both increased from one reported in 2010 to three reported last year, the data indicates.
The sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station saw criminal homicides increase from five in 2010 to seven in 2011, and the sheriff’s Industry Station saw an increase from seven in 2010 to eight last year.
The San Dimas and Temple stations reported significant decreases in murders, however. San Dimas detectives investigated one in 2011, compared with three the previous year, and Temple officials saw four killings in their jurisdiction, down from 10 the year before.
Sheriff’s officials reported that in 2010, the county saw it’s lowest homicide rate since 1965.
Whitmore said that although “one is too many” when it comes to homicides, the statistics must be viewed in perspective.
At the Norwalk Station, for example, where the increase of homicides exceeded 125 percent, the actual change of four to nine homicides last year represents five killings.
“We certainly are focused on those areas,” Whitmore said. “We’re aware of it, We know it’s a trend, and we’re going to deal with it.”
The number of homicide victims reported to the Norwalk Station doesn’t represent the number of fatal attacks, Sgt. Mark Guerrero of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said.
In some cases, he said, multiple people were killed in the same incident, such as an August shooting that claimed the lives of both sheriff’s Explorer Scout Cesar Rodriguez, 19, and Larry Villegas, 24, as they were leaving a party in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue, in an unincorporated county area near Whittier.
In another case, Compton woman’s body was found buried in a vacant lot in Norwalk, while her husband’s body was found buried in Long Beach, officials said. It was unclear where the actual killings took place.
Gang violence and domestic disputes accounted for the bulk of the station’s homicides, Guerrero said.
Violent crime rates were down 17.4 percent at the Altadena Station; 21 percent at the Crescenta Valley Station; 7.1 percent at the Industry Station; 18.9 percent at the Norwalk Station; 10.4 percent at the Pico Rivera Station; 3.7 percent at the San Dimas Station; 10.6 percent at the Temple Station; and 11.5 percent at the Walnut-Diamond Bar Station, according to the report.
Reported property crimes were down 25.3 percent at the Altadena Station; 7.4 percent at the Crescenta Valley Station; 8.2 percent at the Industry Station; 1.7 percent at the Pico Rivera Station; 12.9 percent at the San Dimas Station; 10 percent at the Temple Station; and 8.7 percent at the Walnut-Diamond Bar Station, the data shows.
In the area, only the Norwalk Station showed an increase in property crimes of 8.3 percent.
Several key local trends were believed to be behind the increase in property crimes, Guerrero said.
Bicycle thefts had showed significant increases in 2011, along with the theft of third-row seats from SUVs and catalytic converters from cars, Guerrero said. In both instances, the sergeant advised using locks to secure the items when left unattended.
The theft of copper piping and wiring was also a significant problem for Norwalk deputies in 2011, he added.
Theft of items from cars — principally valuables left in plain view — were also on the rise in Norwalk last year, Guerrero said.
Elsewhere, major decreases in reports of auto theft at several area sheriff’s stations seemed to be helping drive down the property crime statistics.
Car thefts were down 36.1 percent at the Altadena Station; 22.2 percent at the Crescenta Valley Station; 27.5 percent at the San Dimas Station; 12.8 percent at the Temple Station; and 19.9 percent at the Walnut-Diamond Bar Station.
The sheriff’s Industry and Norwalk stations experienced slight increases in auto thefts.

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