Inside the LAPD’s new special initiative to lower violence

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Five months ago, in March, the LAPD realized it had a problem. Violent crime in Los Angeles was up, particularly in South LA. About half the city’s murders and shootings were happening in just four of the LAPD’s 21 divisions, all south of the 10 Freeway: 77th Street, Southeast, Southwest and Newton.

“So the chief said enough’s enough, we’ve gotta do something about it,” said LAPD Commander Dennis Kato.

That something took the form of the Community Safety Operations Center, or CSOC, led by Kato. It’s a special initiative to concentrate resources around South LA in order to bring down violence, fast. It’s almost like triage policing. The program was supposed to run only through the summer, but it’s been extended at least until the end of September.

In South LA, homicides and shootings went down, but aggravated assaults rose. Overall crime in LA is up, as well.

Kato said that identifying the forces behind what makes crime rise and fall can be challenging:

It’s an absolute big puzzle. How do you really measure? Was the cause of lowering crime because I put officers there or is it because mom moved to Riverside and took her knucklehead son with her? We really don’t know that answer. That’s what we’re trying to get to the point where we’re able to effectively measure: OK did what the police department did really affect — was that the causation of lowering crime? That’s a million dollar question. We don’t know sometimes. Sometimes it’s a best guess. We think that’s where crime’s going to happen. For 15 years that’s where crime is happening and that’s where I’m putting officers, and we could miss it.

Kato recently spoke to KCRW’s Madeleine Brand at CSOC’s command center, a third-floor conference room in LAPD headquarters downtown:

(Photo:John Liu via Wikimedia Commons)