|(Feb 24, 2019, 10:00 a.m.) -- The City Council's Public Safety Committee (chair: Suzie Price; vice chair Daryl Supernaw; member: Al Austin, all chosen by Mayor Garcia) will meet on February 27 at 3:30 p.m.. Its agenda doesn't include the items below, but in our opinion it should.
The first four shouldn't cost major sums. They seek improved public access to neighborhood-impacting Council-district reflective crime stats. Knowledge is power, and improvements are merited because (to paraphrase a management principle) if one can't measure something, one can't improve it (or it becomes harder to improve.)
The second four confront public safety service levels that LB taxpayers previously had (item #6 had Council voted budget approval but wasn't provided) but taxpayers no longer have despite even after approving the Measure A "blank check" sales tax increase that imposed the highest sales tax rate among CA cities (tied with only a few others) and now brings LB City Hall over $50 million more each year.
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: In Los Angeles (L.A. County's largest city), LAPD crime stats disclose numbers of "shots fired" and "shooting victims" citywide and for various neighborhoods. (See at this link. In contrast, in Long Beach (L.A. County's second largest city) LBPD crime stats don't disclose shooting data of any kind, including the number of shootings, in what Council districts they occurred and whether those numbers are increasing or decreasing. [LBREPORT.com does this unofficially after confirming each one we learn about with LBPD but we may miss some.] LBPD includes shootings among "aggravated assaults," which satisfies federal bureaucrats but doesn't reveal realities in some LB neighborhoods. LB can and at minimum should provide residents with the level of information on shootings that L.A. provides.
Councilwoman Price has previously acknowledged the neighborhood impacts of what she calls "quality of life" crimes. These are nearly always "Part 2" crimes (all crimes that aren't "Part 1" serious crimes) and aren't routinely itemized because there are so many types of Part 2 crimes. But some Part 2 crimes are commonly associated with transient/homeless populations; LB City Hall's "Justice Lab" has documented them and LBREPORT.com has recently reported this here. With LB's increasing focus on homeless issues, LB residents should be able to see the numbers, types and locations of the most common types of LB transient-related crimes.
LBPD currently provides neighborhood level crime stats in last century's primitive hard-copy scanned format (pdf), making them needlessly difficult to compare and analyze. We presume that internally, LBPD already has its crime stats in some digitally friendly spreadsheet formats and if so, there's no good reason not to make the data available in digitally friendly form for LB residents.
For years, LBPD routinely released crime statistics by Council districts (which allowed residents to compare conditions in their Council district with others) but that suddenly ended entering the 2004 election cycle (when then-Mayor O'Neill supported two incumbents who ultimately lost.) City Hall claimed at the time that it ended its previous practice because some LBPD's crime reporting districts cross Council district lines, which was a bogus justification. LBPD continues to routinely report its crime stats by its four Divisions (North, South, East, West), all of which cross Council district lines. LB's Mayor and Councilmembers routinely cite "citywide" crime stats that camouflage high crime areas by crossing all Council district lines. And obviously LBPD knows in which Council district crimes occur, which LB residents deserve to know so they can compare conditions among Council districts on equity and other grounds.
LBPD no longer has a field anti-gang unit because in 2012, then-Mayor Foster proposed ending funding for it in FY13; LB's responded by funding it at half strength for a year using "one time" funds, then let those "one time" funds end in FY14. LBPD has said most of LB's shootings are gang related, but despite the inequitable concentration of shootings in working class and historically disadvantaged communities, neither Mayor Garcia nor any Council incumbents have proposed restoring LBPD's field anti-gang unit. LBPD does have a gang unit that routinely investigates non-fatal shootings and conducts other necessary work, but no longer has the valuable field level component -- interacting with residents and gathering intelligence -- that LB previously had.
In Oct. 2011, then-Councilman Garcia proposed and the Council voted to allocate oil revenue for items that included funding Shotspotter. Garcia wrote in his agendizing memo: "Shotspotter System: $350,000. The Shotspotter gunshot detection system would be a valuable tool to assist the Police Department in responding to gun incidents and other types of crime." Despite the Council vote, LBPD brass refused to acquire and deploy Shotspotter, eventually claiming it would no available gunfire location system that met LBPD's needs. We consider this defensive double-talk. Our sources told us the real reasons were the system's ongoing cost plus Shotspotter's ability to demonstrate the real number of shots fired in some LB neighborhoods (likely higher than the public phones in) which would prove problematic for LBPD responses lacking 208 citywide deployable officers that the Council had erased. [Since FY17, the Council has restored funding for 22 out of 208 erased citywide deployable officers.] Rather than simply accept what LBPD management says, we suggest that the Committee invite a Shotspotter company rep to deliver a public presentation on what it offers. That's an opportunity for the Committee to ask no-nonsense questions of both sides.
Other nearby cities weathered "the Great Recession" without doing what LB elected officials did to LB taxpayers. Under Mayor Foster (who sought election in 2006 by pledging to put 100 more police on the street in his first four years), City Councils that included Robert Garcia and Dee Andrews erased 208 citywide deployable officers -- a staggering 20% of LBPD's citywide deployable strength amounting to the largest reduction in police officers for LB taxpayers in the more than 100 year history of the City of Long Beach. Since FY17, City Council votes have restored 22 citywide deployable officers. To view LB's too-thin thin blue line per capita compared to what Los Angeles and Signal Hill provide for their taxpayers, click here
In our opinion, the Council's Public Safety Committee should go where the truth leads on these (and other) issues no matter whose toes it steps on. If they're unwilling, any Councilmember(s) can and should agendize these issues for prime time full Council discussion "on any Tuesday."
Below are the items on the Public Safety Committee agenda for its Feb. 27 meeting (3:00 p.m., City Council Chamber.) None of the d items include written or PPT materials, letting the public (or committee members) know what city management, LBPD or LBFD plan to say on these matters (a practice accepted by that committee.)
1. Recommendation to approve the minutes for the Public Safety Committee meeting held Tuesday, December 18, 2018. Suggested Action: Approve recommendation.
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