Murders Down Across the Country

The number of murders has dropped so sharply in Los Angeles, even the police are shocked.

Assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Sharon Papa, said, "It's huge, it's huge for us. We haven't seen the homicide rate this low since 1970."

Murders in L.A. are down more than 17 percent. It's particularly significant, when you consider that L.A. had a million fewer people in 1970.

For decades, Los Angeles was victimized by gang violence, racial upheaval, and police scandals, but the city has gentrified, services have improved, and the police have become more professional.

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George Tita, a criminologist at the University of California at Irvine, said, "What it really speaks to is an increasing level of trust within and between the community and the Los Angeles Police Dept."

Big cities across the country are seeing similar declines.

In New York, murders are on their way to a 40-year low — down an expected 10 percent to 12 percent. In Oakland, murders are down 21 percent. And in Houston, murders are down 12.6 percent. In Philadelphia, murders are down only about 1 percent from 2006, which hit a nine-year high.

Police in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York now use a crime tracking system called Compstat, which, they believe, enhances their ability to fight crime.

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The statistics allow a police department to analyze a crime as it's happening, and put their resources where they're needed.

Police departments stress, however, that statistics only tell part of the story, but for many U.S. cities, the story this year has a much better ending.

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