Crime & Justice

LAPD chief: Wilmington attack on officer is part of growing trend

Patt chats with LAPD's top cop Chief Charlie Beck about the city
Patt chats with LAPD's top cop Chief Charlie Beck about the city
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Thursday night attack on a police officer in the Wilmington area is part of a rising trend of violent crimes against LAPD officers, police chief Charlie Beck said Friday.

Beck told KPCC's Patt Morrison that as of last week violent attacks on police officers in L.A. are up 29 percent - with 125 violent assaults in 2011 alone. Three more assaults have already occurred since those numbers were released last week.

On Thursday, police responded to a call that a man was breaking windows and screaming in his apartment just after 11 p.m.

Officers confronted the man but were unable to subdue the him with a taser gun. The man then struck an officer with a sharp cane, prompting other officers to open fire. The man was hit in the torso several times, taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.

Initial reports by police said the officer had been stabbed.

"This isn't just somebody resisting arrest or taking a swing at an officer, or any of that," said Beck. "This is about being attacked by means likely of bodily injury."

Beck went on to say that a 40 percent shift to ambush style attacks on officers amounts to a "spectacular change."

"You have a selected target, you lie in wait, and then you affect the act, and that has happened in an alarming rate across the United States."

The most immediate example, he said was the killing of an officer sitting alone at a light when a gunman approached his vehicle and shot him to death.

Beck said overall crime is down in L.A., but that the rise in violent assaults against the LAPD is of great concern.

Beck said he can't pinpoint exactly why the crimes are on the rise, but he thinks it may have to do with new technology that has helped officers get to crime scenes earlier. "We don't spread police resources like paint, we put them where the crime is," he said.

"One of the things that's happened in Los Angeles is that police, because we've been able to reduce crime and because our information systems are better and our analysis of those are better, we make contact with a lot of people who are intent on committing violent crime and the means to do that," said Beck.

"When you engage people at the enforcement level at a greater frequency, then you increase the number of forceful contacts that you have."

Beck said homicide rates are down 8 percent, rapes down 17 percent, robberies almost 10 percent, and violent crimes over 8 percent - a number that's dropped almost 18 percent since 2009. Gang crime, what Beck calls the bain of his existence, is down 15.5 percent. Computer-based crimes are up.

Beck added that in a struggling economy these numbers come especially good, but said he anticipates a possible spike in crime as California prisons move to cut prison populations and release inmates over the next year.