Progressive Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon defended his record against critics who have accused him of being soft on crime as violence in the city continues to surge.
"Yeah, in some areas it is," Gascon told KTLA-TV on Saturday when asked if he believes Los Angeles is safer because of policies he has implemented. "I think it’s important to start out by saying that I was a police officer for many years before I was the district attorney. I know how to keep communities safe."
Gascon explained that he believes his Community Violence Intervention Unit has been successfully locating repeat offenders and making "good arrests" and bringing in "a lot of guns" off the streets. Gascon also said that his office has increased the number of prosecutions of sexual assaults which is an area he says his administration has done "really well" on.
Gascon also said that his team has improved the "filing system" to make the process more efficient and that he has been successfully pushing for more "integrity" in the legal system.
When pressed by KTLA anchor Lynette Romero on critics who say that Gascon’s policies have made crime in the city worse, Gascon pointed to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We’re coming out of the pandemic that has had a tremendous impact not only on L.A. County but throughout the nation," Gascon said. "The reality is that crime is up around the nation, in fact some of our neighboring counties per capita are having higher levels of violence than we are."
Gascon added there is "no question" the pandemic has impacted violent crime and homelessness.
"There are a lot of things that are not working," Gascon said. "I see them. I’m frustrated as much as the next person. It is a national problem. It’s not just an L.A. problem. But L.A. in many ways is actually beginning to come out of it."
Gascon explained that he walks through the streets "every day" and is "frustrated" by what he sees.
Gascon was asked by KTLA anchor Mark Meester about the families of two slain police officers in El Monte, California who have blamed the district attorney’s policies for the deaths.
"The reality is there was no predictability that he was going to get involved in violence," Gason said about the gang member that killed the officers who was on probation for a weapons charge after he received a lenient sentence through a plea deal. A Gascon policy allowed Flores to plead no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm and receive a light sentence despite having a strike on his criminal record already.
"We have to understand that we’re never going to get it 100% right," Gascon said.
Gascon is facing a recall effort in response to rising crime in the city that organizers say has reached the necessary amount of signatures to be on the ballot in November.
"This is a Republican power grab," Gascon said when asked about the recall. "If this is about crime, there are many jurisdictions near us where crime is higher that are Republican controlled. You don’t see Republicans trying to recall Republican district attorneys."
Violent crime in Los Angeles has increased 8.6% compared to the same time last year to go along with a 7.3% spike in homicides compared to last year.