L.A. homicides drop nearly 34 percent

LOS ANGELES L.A. has had the biggest drop in crime of any major U.S. city.

Overall violent crime, including rape, robbery and assault, is down almost 5.5 percent. Gang crimes dropped 7 percent, and property crimes are down more than 6.5 percent.

Police Chief /*William Bratton*/ credits the number of /*LAPD*/ officers on the streets with keeping crime down. The city now has the most officers in its history. There were 9,895 officers in the department as of March 2.

Mayor /*Antonio Villaraigosa*/ is rejecting calls to slow down the hiring of new officers. About 1,000 officers have been added to the department since he took office.

"Though the critics may call for a change, though some may want us to stop our public safety effort in its tracks, it is absolutely critical that we not back down," Villaraigosa said Thursday. "We refuse to quit, and we reject the calls to scale back on our ambitions in the name of a little temporary budget relief," he added.

Increasing the size of the LAPD has been financed by increasing rates for trash collection in the city. Rates have more than tripled from about $11 to $36.32 per month. It costs the city about $100,000 to hire a new LAPD officer.

The city is facing a $530 million deficit and possible layoffs. The /*Los Angeles City Council*/ has authorized the personnel department to begin the process of cutting 1,600 positions.

City News Service contributed to this story.

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