LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Robust police staffing levels and improved community relations are among the factors responsible for a dramatic drop in homicides, sexual assaults, and other violent crimes in Los Angeles, city officials said Friday.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a strong challenge to his mayoral successor to continue that trend.

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Villaraigosa was joined by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at a news conference to announce 2013’s first-quarter crime rate figures, which saw 66 homicides – a 12 percent drop from last year – and a nearly 30 percent drop in gang-related homicides.

Compared with 131 homicides in 2005, the homicide rate in Los Angeles this quarter plunged by nearly half – 49.6 percent – since Villaraigosa first took office.

Sexual assaults fell by 39.4 percent to 124 cases, while aggravated assaults dipped by 11.3 percent and robberies by 13.2 percent. Property crimes also dipped 6.8 percent in the first quarter down to 19,826 reports, while reports of shots fired declined by 13.6 percent in the same period.

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Both the mayor and Beck credited the increased number of police officers and an emphasis on community policing and gang prevention programs for the trend – one he hopes the next mayor will take steps to continue.

“I expect that the next mayor will have the same commitment,” Villaraigosa said. “I’ve had assurances from both candidates that they will, and I hope to hear them speak to that in the course of this campaign.”

City leaders have warned that after voters defeated Proposition A in the March 5 primary election, officials may have to target the LAPD as part of an effort to reduce an estimated $160 million budget deficit.

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