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Has the Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row Reduced Serious Crime?

NCJ Number
Gary Blasi; Forrest Stuart
Date Published
September 2008
11 pages
This evaluation examined whether the "Safer Cities Initiative" (SCI), as implemented in Los Angeles' "Skid Row" in September 2006, achieved its goal of reducing serious crime in the targeted area.
Serious or violent crime in the Skid Row area was not significantly reduced by the SCI. Analysis of the data for each crime category found that a reduction was achieved only in robberies and that reduction was not impressive. A reduction of approximately one robbery per year for each of the 50 officers assigned to the SCI was not significant, given that the Central Area of the city as a whole accounted for less than 5 percent of the robberies in the city. Even before the implementation of SCI, Skid Row accounted for only a fraction of the robberies in Los Angeles. The evaluation questions whether the costs of this extended deployment of officers in a 50 square-block area is justified by the results achieved. When it was launched, SCI was promoted as a proven crime-reduction effort based on the "broken windows" theory. According to this theory, a crackdown on less serious violations - such as littering, crosswalk violations, loitering, and disorderly conduct - would lead to a reduction in more serious crime. An earlier report documented the history and results of the SCI, but raised questions about whether the observed reduction in crime was the result of the SCI. Only limited data were considered, however. The current evaluation obtained crime- report data for every serious or violent crime reported to the police for the Los Angeles Central Area (which includes Skid Row). The period addressed was between January 1, 2005, and May 21, 2008. Crime data were examined before and after SCI was fully implemented. 5 tables, 3 figures, and 18 notes