LOS ANGELES – Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris joined Sheriff Lee Baca and executive members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday for a press conference to discuss the latest crime statistics, which reflect an overall drop in crime for Los Angeles County.
At the news conference, the City of Lancaster was recognized for its dramatic reduction in crime rates for 2011. There were three homicides in 2011, compared to 18 in 2006.
Additionally, there were no gang-related homicides in Lancaster in 2011, compared to eight in 2006.
Parris, who spoke at the press conference, described how the community pulled together to transform a bleak, crime-ridden city into a place where, for the first time, “citizens aren’t afraid to walk the streets.”
The following are excerpts of Parris’ remarks at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s press conference Wednesday:
On crime in Lancaster five years ago:
“Imagine a city five years ago where, in several neighborhoods, police officers wouldn’t go in alone. I mean, two would not go in, it took four to go in. Where people would drive home [from] work and there would be toll booths erected, meaning they would block off the street and charge people to be able to go to their home…”
The sound of gunfire was everywhere. It was not a night gone by where you did not hear gunfire in the streets of Lancaster…
On turning things around
“Five years ago, the Sheriff and I had a conversation, and it was ‘Sheriff, if you would create innovative new ways to deal with this, we promise you the community will support you.’
He looked at me like he looks at every politician, [like] ‘you know I’ve heard that before…’
But then he came to a town hall meeting, and there were three thousand people there who were telling him ‘yes, we will support you…’”
On Lancaster’s 2011 crime rate
“We have a city of 145,000 people, [yet] we had a crime rate higher than Compton’s five years ago. We did not have one gang-related shooting or murder the entire year , not one.
That is historic. It is unbelievable to us… not one homicide with a gun.
Now I don’t know if you folks have been to Lancaster, but we all have five or six guns. That’s the way we are up there.
It is truly phenomenal. But let’s be clear how that happened: it was supporting the Sheriff. It was when something went wrong, not criticizing him of what happened that was wrong. It was how do we do it better next time?
It was absolute confidence and faith and love for Sheriff Baca. And that whole City loves him, because he saved it.
The lesson is, if we do this together, as a supportive group, instead of looking to cast blame when something goes wrong, look what happens.
For the first time, our citizens aren’t afraid to walk the streets. They’re not afraid to walk downtown. It is an absolutely safe city. We owe that to the Sheriff. [To Baca] thank you!”
View the entire press conference below. Parris’ remarks start at the 13:30 mark.