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Study Finds Police Crackdown in Skid Row Did Not Reduce Crime

UCLA School of Law study reveals no reduction in serious or violent crime

Lauri Gavel                                 
Director of Communications 
UCLA School of Law 
(310) 206-2611 

LOS ANGELES, September 25, 2008- Two years after the City of Los Angeles launched the Safer Cities Initiative (SCI), representing one of the most targeted concentrations of police resources in the world outside of Baghdad, a UCLA School of Law study finds that the effort has failed to reduce serious or violent crime in the city's Skid Row.

"While there was a reduction in overall crime in Skid Row," said UCLA School of Law Professor Gary Blasi, who conducted the study, "it was strikingly similar to the reduction seen in areas outside the Initiative's focus.  Importantly, our study shows there was no statistically significant effect on serious, violent crime in Skid Row, with the exception of a very small effect as to the crime of robbery."

Serious, violent crimes are defined by law-enforcement officials as homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.  In a report by UCLA School of Law released last year (Policing Our Way Out of Homelessness?), it was noted that during the first seven months  of the SCI, just 0.7% of the arrests by officers assigned to the Safer Cities Task Force were for serious, violent crimes.

"Our study shows that the Safer Cities Initiative did not cause the overall decline in Skid Row crime," said Blasi.  "Even if we attribute the decline in Skid Row robberies to the SCI, each additional officer was responsible for a reduction of just under one robbery per year.  One can argue that the same 50 officers might have had much more impact on serious or violent crimes in other parts of Los Angeles with higher rates of such crimes," he added. 

According to Blasi, the additional police officers assigned to the 50 square blocks of Skid Row cost the City general fund about $6 million, more than was spent on shelter for the homeless across the entire City.  When it was announced in 2006, the Safer Cities Initiative was planned to have two components:  increased enforcement and increased services. 

 "The enforcement component was delivered swiftly, with 50 additional patrol officers, 25-30 additional narcotics officers and mounted police assigned to the 50-blocks of Skid
Row," Blasi said.  "However, the enhancement part of the equation - more shelter, drug treatment and services for homeless people with mental disabilities - never materialized, and we are all worse off as a result."

About UCLA School of Law
Founded in 1949, UCLA School of Law is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship.  With approximately 100 faculty and 970 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to its effects on society and the legal profession.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The study, Has the Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row Reduced Serious Crime, is available at: http://www.law.ucla.edu/docs/did_safer_cities_reduce_crime_in_skid_row.pdf
Policing Our Way Out of Homelessness? can be found at: http://www.law.ucla.edu/docs/policingourwayoutofhomelessness.pdf