Violence between black and hispanic gangs increased in Los Angeles last year despite an overall fall in crime for a fifth consecutive year, according to figures released on Wednesday.
Crime rates dipped by 7.7 per cent in 2006, with 31.5 crimes per 1,000 people, Los Angeles Police Department chief William Bratton and mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told a press conference late on Tuesday.
The crime figures, which must still be officially verified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are the lowest the city has had since 1956.
However, the fall in crime was offset by a spike in interracial violence, mostly between black and hispanic gangs. Around 56 percent of the city's 478 murders in 2006 involved gangs, Bratton said.
Eighty-six per cent of murder victims and 92 percent of suspects were either black or Latino — a disproportionately high number, considering the city's population is 11 percent black and 48 percent Latino, Bratton said.
Villaraigosa said authorities would make tackling gang crime a priority in the coming year.
"Our New Year's resolution in 2007 is to make violent street gangs public enemy number one," he said. "The idea that anybody would be shot or killed because of their race or ethnicity is unacceptable in this, the most diverse city anywhere in America."