LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck approaches retirement, his department has met a goal he once thought unrealistic — cutting the homicide rate to less than 300 a year.

This past year is the seventh year in a row that Los Angeles has had a murder rate of less than 300.

Figures released Wednesday show there were 282 reported homicides, down 4 percent from 2016.

Nearly 63 percent of those killings were gang-related, showing an upward spike.

“Gang-related homicides are the hardest to solve, because no one comes forward,” Beck said.

The LAPD says most of the victims and suspects were Hispanics and African-Americans. Murder is also on the rise in the homeless population, with 44 victims and 33 suspects.

The good news is that the homicide rate has improved dramatically, dropping by more than half from 1997. Los Angeles has the lowest homicide rate among the nation’s big cities — New York saw 290 murders, and Chicago a whopping 650, in the same year.

Chief Beck, who is set to retire on June 27, says L.A. residents are safer than they’ve ever been but, in his words, “we’re not safe enough.”

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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