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    News / Perspective

    Crime Data Show LB Violent Crime Per Capita Worsens Measured Against Most Other U.S. Cities...And Is Worse Than Many Area Cities


    (November 21, 2005) -- Using FBI crime statistics to calculate the safety of U.S. cities in terms of violent crimes per population, Long Beach, CA had violent crime exceeding the national average in 2004 (the last full year stats available) by an even greater amount than a year before...and significantly worse than a number of area cities.

    In 2004, LB ranked 241 out of 363 U.S. cities over 75,000 population, 74 out of 90 CA cities, in terms of violent crimes per capita.

    While LB was statistically safer per capita than L.A. (L.A. ranked 290 nationally, 82 out of 90 CA cities), L.A.'s violent crime rate compared to other U.S. cities in 2004 improved over 2003, while for LB the opposite was true: LB's violent crime ranking worsened compared to other cities.

    Among the safest CA cities (national rank in brackets): Mission Viejo (best in CA, 4 nationally), Thousand Oaks (7), Lake Forest (9), Irvine (13), Simi Valley (22), Glendale (26), Orange (28), Newport Beach (35), Santa Clarita (36), Torrance (44) and Huntington Beach (52).

    Among those also safer than LB: Buena Park (119), Pasadena (120), Lakewood (121), Anaheim (133), Downey (134), Norwalk (139), Santa Monica (174), San Diego (178), El Monte (184), Carson (195), Bellflower (211), South Gate (227) and Hawthorne (228).

    The rankings are based on a city's rate for six basic crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. All cities of 75,000+ populations that reported crime data to the FBI for the six crime categories were included in the rankings. Final 2004 statistics, released by the FBI on October 17, 2005, were used to determine the rankings.

    For the second consecutive year, Newton, MA ranked first (safest) among the statistically safest U.S. cities; Camden, NJ. ranked worst 369 (least safe).

    New York City ranked 148 nationally. Long Beach, CA ranked 241 nationally, 74 among 90 CA cities.

    Statistically less safe than LB were Pomona (260), San Francisco (267), Fresno (282), Los Angeles (290), Inglewood (302), Sacramento (318), Oakland (349), San Bernardino (352) and Compton (355, second worst in CA) and Richmond (359, CA's worst).

    LB also ranked safer than (among others) Seattle, Salt Lake City, Fresno, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Tucson, Houston, Miami Beach, Dallas, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Baltimore, Detroit and (worst) Camden, N.J.

    The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Division (MDs are smaller parts of ten Metropolitan Statistical Areas) ranked as the 25th most dangerous metro area in the U.S.. Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI ranked most dangerous metro area.

    The FBI violent crime data, analyzed by Morgan Quitno press, have been reported by LBReport.com for several years. LB City Hall has previously responded to the annual report by slicing the data to portray LB as ranking well among cities within a narrow population range, avoiding comparisons to neighboring cities.

    On its website, Morgan-Quito press describes its methodology as follows:

    First, 2004 city and metro area crime rates per 100,000 population (the most recent comparable final numbers available, released by the FBI in October 2005) for six basic crime categories -- murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft -- were plugged into a formula that measured how a particular city or metro area compared to the national average for a given crime category. The outcome of this equation was then multiplied by a weight assigned to each of the six crime categories. Each of the six crimes was given equal weight. By weighting each crime equally, cities are compared based purely on their crime rates and how they stack up to the national average for a particular crime category. These weighted numbers then were added together for a city or metro areaís final score. Finally, these scores were ranked from lowest to highest to determine which cities and metropolitan areas were safest and most dangerous.

    While this methodology appears rather complicated, it results in fairer treatment because a city or metro areaís crime record is measured against the national average. The farther below the national average, the higher (and better) a city or metro ranked in the final Safest Cities and Metros list; the farther above the national average, the lower (and worse) a city or metro ranked in the final list.

    In recent years, LB city management has used a federal Community Oriented Police Services Universal Hiring grant (money via federal taxpayers) to help add 26 officers over two years, plus 10 more in FY 06. On top of this, in Sept. 2005 the Council (per management's recommendation) funded five additional officers directly from the General Fund, producing 15 more budgeted officers in FY 06 alone. These officers, when hired and deployed, should be available for use in neighborhoods citywide.

    The neighborhood officers [our term] are separate from roughly 50 budgeted in FY 06 to handle specialized security tasks for the Port, Airport, LBCC, LBUSD, Carmedlitos [L.A. County] and LB Transit (paid for by those separate entities.)

    After deducting these roughly 50 specially tasked officers (separately paid for by the Port, Airport, LBCC, etc.) from LB's total budgeted 995 officers, by our rough reckoning LB's neighborhood budgeted police level [our term for officers available for neighborhoods] is in the range of about 945 officers. [Caveat: budgeted officers differ from officers actually hired and ready for service, both of which commonly fluctuate].

    In terms of police officers per population, LB's most recent population (per CA Dept. of Finance) was 491,564. 491.5/945 = ~1.92 officers/1,000 population.

    Perspective

    New York City, once called "ungovernable" by some, is now safer per capita than many U.S. cities. The change followed New Yorkers' election of Rudolph Giuliani as Mayor, the first Republican to rule Democrat dominated NYC in years, who reversed policies of the Dinkins administration and increased police significantly.

    In LB, the thrice-elected O'Neill administration didn't recommend, and multiple City Councils didn't budget, sufficient police officers to keep pace with City Hall-invited growth. For roughly the past ten years, multiple Council approved budgets have failed to provide LB taxpayers with officer levels recommended by City Hall's 1994 LBPD "Strategic Plan."

    The non-binding 1994 "Strategic Plan" was released by then-City Management and the City Auditor at a time when four then-Councilmembers (Drummond, Robbins, Kellogg, Harwood) supported letting voters decide on a ballot measure to guarantee LB taxpayers minimum police and fire levels tied to LB's population.

    The ballot measure, authored by then-activist, now LBReport.com publisher Bill Pearl, was supported by multiple neighborhood groups but opposed by then-City Manager (now Harbor Commissioner) Jim Hankla, development interests and much of LB's establishment. In a February 1994 showdown vote, four Councilmembers (Drummond, Robbins, Kellogg and Harwood) voted to put it on the ballot, 4 voted against it (Braude, A. Lowenthal, Clark and Topsy-Elvord) and one exited the Council meeting before the vote (Grabinski).

    Opponents said the measure lacked a funding mechanism and also cited City Hall's non-binding "Strategic Plan"...to which they said Councilmembers would be held accountable. The "Strategic Plan" included what it called a "preliminary staffing strategy" indicating 1,023 officers by FY 00.

    Nearly twelve years after City Hall's proferred "Plan," the 1,023 officer level indicated for six years ago has yet to materialize.

    In September 2003, Chief Batts told Councilmembers that he needed 130 more officers. In September 2005, LBPD Chief Batts presented the Council with cost/benefit options for adding between roughly 37-309 officers (minimum 37, moderate increase 130-202, high end 309).

    Mayoral candidate Bob Foster, recently endorsed by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce and Police Officers Associations, has indicated he'll add 100 officers during his "term in office."

    In 1994, then-Councilman, now Mayoral candidate, Doug Drummond voted to let LB residents vote on the ballot measure guaranteeing police and fire levels tied to city population.

    Councilman Frank Colonna, on the Council since July 1998 and now also a Mayoral candidate, recently indicated he has his own plan to deliver increased officers.

    Although Mayors propose, Councilmembers dispose. The City Council has the ultimate power to decide LB's police level when it votes on City Hall's annual spending budget. LB voters in Council districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 are scheduled to vote for Council reps in April 2006.

    On its website, Morgan Quitno adds the following:

    The FBI, police and many criminologists caution against rankings according to crime rates. They correctly point out that crime levels are affected by many different factors, such as population density, composition of the population (particularly the concentration of youth), climate, economic conditions, strength of local law enforcement agencies, citizenís attitudes toward crime, cultural factors, education levels, crime reporting practices of citizens and family cohesiveness. Accordingly, crime rankings often are deemed "simplistic" or "incomplete." However, this criticism is largely based on the fact that there are reasons for the differences in crime rates, not that the rates are incompatible. This would be somewhat akin to deciding not to compare athletes on their speed in the 100-yard dash because of physical or training differences. Such differences help explain the different speeds but do not invalidate the comparisons.

    To be sure, crime-ranking information must be considered carefully. However the rankings tell not only an interesting, but also very important story regarding the incidence of crime in the United States. Furthermore, annual rankings not only allow for comparisons among different states and cities, but also enable leaders to track their communitiesí crime trends from one year to the next.

    We certainly do not want to be irresponsible in our presentation of state and city crime data. Our publications help concerned Americans learn how their communities fare in the fight against crime. The first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand the true magnitude of their crime problems. This will only be achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and understand.


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