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FBI REPORTS DIP IN SERIOUS CRIME IN VALLEY AREAS.

Byline: Bhavna Mistry Daily News Staff Writer

Lancaster and Palmdale both experienced a drop in crime in the first six months of 1998 - a change from a year ago, when they were the only municipalities above a population of 100,000 in Los Angeles County to see crime go up.

Rate of incidence in the FBI's serious crime category, which includes homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, grand theft auto and arson, dropped 9 percent in Lancaster and 5 percent in Palmdale during the first six months of 1998, according to bureau statistics.

``It's remarkable,'' said Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts. ``It looks like we're doing what we're supposed to. We're making public safety our No. 1 concern.''

Statistics released by the FBI Sunday varied slightly from first-half numbers released during a press conference by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department earlier this year.

All categories in Lancaster showed a decrease except homicides - up from two to five - and grand theft auto, which rose less than 1 percent.

Leading the crime drop in Lancaster was the robbery category, which was down 26.9 percent. Also down was arson, by 39.3 percent; burglary, 18.1 percent; rape, 17.2 percent; and aggravated assault, 10.8 percent.

In Palmdale, homicide, rape, assaults and burglaries were up, while robberies were down by almost 50 percent. As in Lancaster, homicides went from two to five. Also on the decline was larceny, by 5.5 percent, and auto theft, 16.7 percent.

``This is good news,'' said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, who said crime statistics are one measure of the Sheriff's Department's effectiveness locally. ``We want to support residents and community-based policing. It has a positive effect on the number of crimes.''

With both cities' populations increasing, more crime can be expected, Ledford said.

``In the area that's growing, you're going to have more crime,'' said Ledford. ``The numbers go with high-growth areas.''

In 1997, FBI figures showed that Lancaster and Palmdale were alone among the 15 cities with populations over 100,000 in Los Angeles County to see an increase in serious crimes during the year's first half.

Statistics showed Palmdale with a 13 percent increase and Lancaster with an 8 percent increase.

At that time, officials said they were concerned about the numbers and had programs in place to tackle certain crime problems. But they attributed much of the rise to an increase in population, an increased number of parolees living in the Antelope Valley and better reporting by area residents.

Officials on Monday said long-term projects, grants for specialized and community-oriented policing programs are all assisting the decline of crime.

``It all contributes,'' said Roberts. ``I'd like to think that the dedication to our new policing programs are working.''

Officials attribute the large drop in robberies to a successful Men in Black stolen-property sting operation and the breakup of a robbery ring believed to be responsible for 50 robberies in 1997.

The Men in Black sting netted more than 72 alleged thieves and drug dealers. In a four-month operation that ended April 1, four undercover deputies running a pawnshop within sight of the Lancaster sheriff's station recovered $1 million worth of stolen merchandise - including 43 guns and 79 automobiles - while recording transactions on videotape and identifying 90 suspects.

``We're not stopping,'' said Roberts. ``We're going to continue with all of our programs. Anytime (the deputies) have an idea, we're ready to listen.''

A $1 million grant announced last summer will pay for specialized computer equipment and four additional employees to study the activities of career criminals and how best to target them. Officials said prison parolees are responsible for much area crime, and their number has risen to 1,690 from 850 eight years ago.

CRIME STATISTICS

The following figures are a comparison of first-half crime statistics between 1997 and 1998 in the Antelope Valley.

LANCASTER

Crime 1997 1998 Change

Homicide 2 5 +150.0%

Rape 29 24 -17.2%

Robbery 175 128 -26.9%

Assault 544 485 -10.8%

Burglary 791 648 -18.1%

Larceny 1,278 1,234 -3.4%

Auto theft 397 400 +0.8%

Arson 28 17 -39.3%

TOTAL 3,244 2,941 -9.3%

PALMDALE

Crime 1997 1998 Change

Homicide 2 5 +150%

Rape 17 18 +5.9%

Robbery 143 78 -45.5%

Assault 422 444 +5.2%

Burglary 540 588 +8.9%

Larceny 1,192 1,127 -5.5%

Auto theft 419 339 -16.7%

Arson 23 23 0%

TOTAL 2,758 2,622 -4.9%

SOURCE: Federal Bureau of Investigation

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Dec 15, 1998
Words:764
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