Not counting the last four days of 2008, Los Angeles police reported violent crime fell 2.5 percent compared to the same period in 2007. Homicides also were down -- 376 in 2008 compared to 400 the prior year.
Homicides have plunged 27 percent during the past five years, police said.
The change has been due, in part, to the reduction of gang-related crimes, police said.
"We have shown time and again that if you invest in law enforcement and hold police accountable . . . you will absolutely have a very definitive effect on crime," said Los Angeles Assistant Police Chief Earl Paysinger said.
The county's Sheriff's Department, which handles calls in unincorporated areas and some cities, saw a 6 percent drop in violent crimes through the end of November compared to the same period in 2007. The decline was a surprise to Sheriff Lee Baca, who predicted last year that the nation's economic woes would translate into an increase in crime.
"Expectation of having more crime occur in dire economic times is practical expectation that has been evident from other cycles of depressed times," Baca said. "We aren't experiencing real hard economic times yet. In my opinion we have to prepare ourselves that things could get worse."
Violent crime also dropped in other areas of Southern California. The city of San Diego was projected to finish the year with a modest downturn; the city of San Bernardino had 7 percent fewer crimes through last month compared to the same period in 2007; and the Orange County Sheriff's Department reported a slight drop.