THE BLOG
07/24/2012 03:10 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2012

Where We've Been and Where We're Going: Keeping Los Angeles Safe

Safety doesn't happen by accident. And it is no accident that the Los Angeles of today is the safest it's been since the Eisenhower administration. The dedicated and brave men and women who protect our city every day have a lot to be proud of, and we thank them for their service.

When I was elected Mayor of Los Angeles, we promised to take on the big challenges and make the tough choices: grow our economy, improve our schools and keep our neighborhoods safe. From day one we knew that communities couldn't flourish and businesses wouldn't create jobs if our residents didn't feel secure. Public safety had to be our priority.

In the year I took office, Los Angeles experienced over 30,000 violent crimes, nearly 500 murders and 112,000 plus property crimes. That's more than 140,000 Angelenos who were victimized. Crime was too high and the city wasn't doing its part.

We changed that. Last year, L.A. experienced less than 20,000 violent crimes, less than 300 murders and 84,000 property crimes. Homicides have been reduced by 41 percent and violent crime by 40.6 percent.

In a historically under-policed city, we started by increasing the size of the LAPD and began an innovative gang reduction program. Today, gang violence is down and L.A. is safer than it has been since the 1950s.

We initiated a new partnership between the LAPD and the community. This partnership changed the culture of policing in Los Angeles and enshrined constitutional policing as the bedrock principle of the LAPD. We recruited a new generation of officers and we now have a force that reflects the many different communities it serves.

We didn't want to repeat the mistakes of the past. So we placed a premium on innovation and overhauled our approach to gang reduction. Working in partnership with the community, we developed our Gang Reduction and Youth Development Office (GRYD). Today, this comprehensive strategy is a national model.

The idea behind our gang reduction plan is simple -- carefully target resources to communities most in need to significantly reduce gang-related crimes. The approach is comprised of 17 strategies including crisis response, employment and working directly with families to engage multiple generations in reducing gang activity. As a direct result of our GRYD efforts, neighborhoods that were once no-go zones have a new found sense of community and hope; gang-related crime in GRYD zones is down nearly 30 percent.

One of the hallmark programs of GRYD is Summer Night Lights (SNL), which today operates in 32 parks across L.A. Launched five years ago, half of the funding for SNL comes from corporations and philanthropy from all across the city. People understand that what happens in a park in Pacoima touches us all.

The result is a safer city for all Angelenos, a city where residents can feel secure to send their kids to school, interact with their neighbors and enjoy their local parks.

Overall crime is down -- and these are reductions from already historically low numbers. Since this time last year, Part 1 crime is down 2.4 percent, violent crime is down 8.8 percent, property crime is down one percent and gang crime is down 16.2 percent.

Despite budget cuts, we've made sure the LAPD has the force it needs to serve and protect our City. And we've continued our commitment to our gang reduction strategy.

Most importantly, we've shown that smart approaches to public safety can work. Los Angeles is living proof of that.

Together, we have made significant progress, revitalizing Los Angeles and making our city a safer place to live, work and visit.

While we are encouraged by these numbers, we have to stay vigilant. We must maintain our resolve to keep LAPD strong and to continue the tremendous strides we've made in crime reduction for the benefit of all Angelenos. Because danger never takes a vacation and neither should our drive to protect the city's most valuable asset -- our people.

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the 41st Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. Elected in 2005, his second term ends June 30, 2013. This is the second in a series about the future of Los Angeles.