LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Violent crime has dropped significantly so far this year in Los Angeles County — but law enforcement officials give much of the credit for the decline to its civilian partners.

KNX 1070’s Brian Ping reports on what the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. is calling a major success story.

Officials said violent crimes are down nearly 13 percent in its jurisdiction compared to the first eight months of last year. Serious property crimes are off by 4 percent, while homicides have been nearly cut in half from just five years ago.

Sheriff’s Captain Mike Parker says much of the credit goes to some 4,300 people who’ve joined the department’s Civilian Volunteer Program.

“When there is a gang-related stabbing or shooting, these community leaders work closely with the sheriff’s department to reach out within the affected community and the gangs and the churches to help to calm the mood,” said Parker.

He added that effort is just one way civilian volunteers can “prevent additional bloodshed” and lauded the community’s improved use of tip lines like Crimestoppers.

Criminal homicides in the Sheriff’s jurisdiction are well on pace to finish below last year’s rate, which was the lowest since 1965.