Dec. 31, 1944: Major crimes increased in the city of Los Angeles, except for auto theft. Homicides are up 29.5% over 1943.
There are many ways to portray 1944 in Los Angeles, when Georgette Bauerdorf was killed. We might talk about the upcoming presidential election in which Democrat Franklin Roosevelt would defeat Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey for a fourth term. Or the current movies, although it’s likely that only the most hardcore TCM viewers have seen “Wilson,” “The Merry Monahans” “Maisie Goes to Reno” or “I Love a Soldier.” Much of the Daily Mirror has been devoted to the popular culture for 1944 and Life magazine has provided the basics of World War II, so there’s a fair amount of context.
So before getting into the Bauerdorf case, let’s focus on crime in 1944.
Georgette Bauerdorf, an Unsolved Murder:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31
One of the major trends in the year of Bauerdorf’s death is the expectation that World War II would be ending soon. Of course, it did end, but not as quickly as some people thought. Newspapers were posting daily items on how many miles the Allies were from Berlin, but the Battle of the Bulge was still coming up in December.
In examining the papers for 1944, we find many stories speculating about what life would be like for returning servicemen. As you may recall, Life recently devoted an entire issue, intended for service personnel overseas, examining all the ways America had changed while they were gone.
The mental condition of these returning servicemen was of particular concern to the nation’s police administrators, who were worried that former GIs would come back with lots of firearms as war trophies — which is exactly what happened. But police officials’ concerns were well placed: By March 1946, a year and a half after the Bauerdorf killing and seven months after the end of the war, 22% of San Quentin’s inmates were World War II veterans.
Los Angeles in 1944 was in the midst of a sharp increase in crime, which eventually prompted the Los Angeles Examiner to post it famous list of daily crime statistics on the front page.
The LAPD closed 1944 with 101 homicides, the highest rate ever recorded, exceeding the previous records of 87 in 1937 and 78 in 1943. Homicides declined to 91 in 1945 before setting a new record of 116 in 1946.
Before getting into the statistics for the sheriff’s Hollywood station, which handled the Bauerdorf case, we might look at the figures for the LAPD’s Hollywood Division. I don’t have the 1944 annual report handy, but the 1946 report shows that the Hollywood Division recorded six homicides in 1945 and five homicides in 1946. Presumably the figure for 1944 is somewhat similar.
And because the Bauerdorf case was a rape and homicide, let’s take a look at the LAPD statistics on homicides involving sex from 1936-37 to 1946, for a man killing a woman (notice that the LAPD switched from fiscal year to calendar year in 1939):
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated Bauerdorf’s death, recorded a similar increase, although the metrics are slightly different because county used the fiscal year (July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945) rather than the calendar year used by the LAPD.
According to Sheriff’s Department statistics provided by Sheriff’s Cmdr. Scott Edson of the Technical Services Division, the county recorded 13 homicides for 1942-43; 18 homicides for 1943-44 and 33 homicides for 1944-45.
In 1944-45, Bauerdorf’s killing was the only one recorded by the sheriff’s Hollywood station, and there were no homicides in 1943-44 (one case of manslaughter was reported for each period).
Compared to other sheriff’s stations, West Hollywood was fairly safe:
Seven felonious assaults, compared to 99 in East Los Angeles and 83 in Firestone, but more than Malibu (3).
Fifteen robberies, compared to 197 in East Los Angeles and 163 in Firestone, but more than Malibu (3), Altadena (2) or Montrose (1).
One hundred fifty burglaries, compared to 851 in East Los Angeles, 875 in Firestone, but more than Altadena (108), Newhall (44) or Malibu (23).
Here are the leading crimes for the Hollywood station for 1944-45:
|Other vehicle laws||118|
|Disturbing the peace||6|
|Forgery and checks||5|
|Failure to provide||5|
|Assault and battery||4|
|Other sex offenses||2|
West Hollywood in 1944 was a relatively safe area. Except for this particular young woman on this particular night.
To be continued.
Crime on the rise, The Times reported Dec. 31, 1944.
Oct. 6, 1941, Los Angeles County crime increases.
Sept. 30, 1943, Los Angeles County crime statistics.
April 25, 1944, Los Angeles County crime statistics.
Dec. 31, 1945, crime statistics.
March 28, 1946, 22% of San Quentin inmates are World War II veterans.
Really fascinating and unexpected info about postwar America. (also, thanks for not clipping off the Lubitsch story!) Here’s a question: Elinor Glyn claimed in her autobiography that Hollywood in the early 1920’s was a hotbed of crime, and that Doug and Mary and “all the leading stars” were constantly accompanied by security, and their houses were patrolled by armed men. Is there any truth to the idea that there was more crime in 1920’s Hollywood than 1940’s Hollywood, or is it just Glyn weirdness?
I’m not a specialist in the 1920s, so I’m not certain. I’m not familiar with her autobiography, but if she has a poor track record, then caveat emptor. Check out “They Call Them Camisoles.”
I hadn’t heard of that book before; it looks fascinating/terrifying. I found it online–but I’m not sure what the connection is?
The author had some work in the movies before getting herself put into Camarillo.
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