Confirmed: Demoralized Cops Equal Higher Crime
Gentle readers, fasten your seatbelts. We are about to embark on a virtual tour on which you will join me in a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car cruising some of the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods. We will be patrolling the LAPD’s 77th Street Division, which year after year ranks at or near the top in violent crime among the city’s 21 patrol divisions. The Los Angeles Times tracks crime in more than 200 communities across L.A. County, and five of the top ten on the list are in 77th Street Division.
Leading the Times’s list, with a violent crime rate of 145.7 per 100,000 residents, is the deceptively placid-sounding Chesterfield Square. Somewhat strangely, there have been no homicides reported in the area in the last twelve months, though this is perhaps owing more to the efficacy of Fire Department and emergency room personnel than a lack of effort by the local hoodlums. During that same period, the adjacent areas of Hyde Park and Vermont Square have seen 12 and 13 murders, respectively. Not far away, the Florence area, patrolled by 77th Street and the neighboring Newton Division, has seen 21 murders during the same period.
So it’s a lively part of town we’ll be touring, though not in the sense that attracts tourists to other, more glamorous sections of the city. No, this is South Los Angeles, the area tourists can see out the airplane windows just before landing at LAX before spending the rest of their vacation avoiding it.
Our tour begins at six in the evening in the roll call room at the 77th Street Station, where our watch commander informs us on the latest crime trends and instructs us on the methods the department’s upper chain of command would wish to see employed to address them. These instructions are soon forgotten, as the officers with us in the roll call room realize all too well that, for reason we’ll explore below, the upper chain of command is all but worthless in the cause of fighting crime.
After roll call we are issued our required gear and tackle, including shotguns, Tasers, fresh batteries for our radios, and keys for our black-and-white. Thus equipped, we load up and head out into the night to see what awaits. But, as little can be accomplished on an empty stomach, we stop to fortify ourselves at one of the fast-food establishments near the campus of the University of Southern California. Yes, it’s technically outside our division, but there are few eating places within 77th Street’s borders where a cop can feel confident his food has not been tampered with in some nauseating fashion.