Why did crime decline in Sylmar?

Advocates tout ‘community policing’

Sylmar, which lies along the northern edge of the City of Los Angeles, had 250 burglaries in 2017. Last year there were 143. It was a similar story for robberies: In 2017 there were 98; last year the number fell to 77.

The falling numbers place Sylmar, home to about 80,000 people, among the neighborhoods in LA that saw a sharp improvement in reported crime. Overall, Sylmar had a 17% reduction, based on data from the Los Angeles Police Department.

 

So, what’s behind this shift? According to the LAPD, places like Sylmar bear testament to what the department sees as the effectiveness of a new data-driven approach to policing.

 

“We do what is called ‘predictive policing,’ where we analyze crimes and figure out what areas have an uptick, and encourage officers to go to those areas, for higher visibility and deterrence,” said LAPD Officer Keith Crawford.

 

As senior lead officer, Crawford’s work involves coordinating with Sylmar resident groups, gathering “intelligence from the streets” and sharing information with patrol officers.

 

“It is a combination of crunching numbers and good old fashioned police work — me getting information from people and sharing it with other officers,” he said.

 

This closer relationship between the police and residents is part of what the LAPD refers to as “community policing” — a model that the department has implemented and is encouraging throughout the city. While many applaud this approach, some activists and critics argue that the initiative leads to more surveillance and heavier police presence in certain neighborhoods.

 

Last year, overall crime rates in Los Angeles fell by about 1%. But gains were uneven across the city. While the affluent beachside neighborhood of Playa del Rey on the Westside of the City of Los Angeles saw a dip of around 19%, the highest in the city, neighborhoods like Century City and Westmont, saw an uptick in crime by over 30%. In Century City, part of the increase can be attributed to the re-opening of the Westfield shopping center.

 

LAPD’s Officer Crawford believes that greater awareness among residents also helps keep criminal activity down.

 

Christian Rubalcava, a board-member of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council, concurred. He said his area was also benefiting from closer cooperation between residents and the police.

 

“We let people know whenever we see some report or story of a crime,” Rubalcava said. “Even when the LAPD shares something on social media, we share it as well. Residents are more aware and there is more communication.”

 

His advice to other neighborhood councils: “Track whatever is happening in the neighborhood and keep informing the public.”

 

Here are the 15 neighborhoods with the sharpest drop in reported crimes in 2018.

 

 

Rank Neighborhood 2018 Crime Rate (per 100,000 residents) 2017 Crime Rate (per 100,000 residents) Drop in Crime
1 Playa del Rey 3341 4137 19.24%
2 Granada Hills 3837 4740 19.04%
3 Sylmar 3308 3963 16.53%
4 Arleta 2448 2910 15.87%
5 Porter Ranch 2700 3103 13.00%
6 Atwater Village 5024 5747 12.58%
7 Reseda 3908 4464 12.46%
8 San Pedro 4834 5516 12.37%
9 El Sereno 3377 3800 11.13%
10 Central Alameda 4380 4853 9.75%
11 Northridge 4892 5410 9.58%
12 Hyde Park 7670 8423 8.94%
13 Montecito Heights 2883 3165 8.91%
14 Larchmont 4538 4980 8.88%
15 South Park 6476 7088 8.63%

 

How we did it: We examined publicly available  LAPD data on reported crimes. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.

 

LAPD data only reflects crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.

 

Want to know how your neighborhood fares? Or simply just interested in our data? Email us at askus@xtown.la.