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Opinion

Skepticism Warranted Over Some Of LBPD's Upcoming 2018 Crime Stats, Because...


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(Dec. 29, 2018) -- In a few days, Long Beach will release its year end crime statistics. It will show an increase in homicides citywide of roughly 36% (from what Mayor Garcia boasted nearly a year ago was a record low [by one] of 22. As of Dec. 29, the grim total for 2018 is now 30, an increase about 36% from 2017 to 2018. (LB's citywide homicide totals have oscillated: 2018 = 30; 2017 = 22; 2016 = 33; 2015 = 36; 2014 = 23; that puts 2018's 30 a bit higher than LB's five year average of 28.8.)

Meanwhile, LBPD now contends "aggravated assaults" have dropped by double-digit numbers with November year-to-date (YTD) aggravated assaults down citywide 16% (from 1,517 YTD in Nov. 2017 to 1,275 YTD to Nov. 2018.) However a month earlier, LBPD's crime stats indicated agggravated assaults were up 34.7% (from 1,394 YTD in October 2017 to 1,878 YTD by Oct 2018.)

Here's what accounts for this. In a December 13, 2018 press release headlined "LBPD To Review Aggravated Assault Misclassifications," LBPD stated:

Beginning early in 2018, the Police Department initiated a review of all aggravated assault incidents to identify the cause of a notable increase in the number of aggravated assaults. During this review, the department was unable to immediately determine any unusual contributing factors. After adjustment of review parameters, which included analysis of actual report narratives, it was discovered that a significant number of incidents had been misclassified as aggravated assaults, instead of simple assaults. These misclassifications were a result of data entry coding errors when reports were being electronically filed, and when reviewed for categorization.

Per the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program aggravated assault is defined as follows:

"An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Simple assaults are excluded."

The aggravated assault classification totals include incidents from 17 different penal code sections where the circumstances of the incident can meet the above criteria.

The Department is in the process of conducting a thorough review of all aggravated assault reports. In the meantime, all reports are now being reviewed on a daily basis, rather than monthly, and additional robust training is being provided to Records Division personnel to avoid any further misclassifications. Additional measures are being implemented in the Departmentís Records Managing System to ensure these types of incidents are classified in the correct category.

With this review, we anticipate seeing a decrease in aggravated assaults and an increase in simple assaults in the 2018 year-end crime statistics. We expect our review to be finalized by the end of the month, and the 2018 monthly crime statistics for the aggravated assault category will be updated at that time and will be posted on the departmentís website.

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LBREPORT.com was journalistically skeptical of this and remains so. LBPD's crime stats for the past five years (November 2012 through November 2017) show aggravated assaults have steadily increased year after year from 1,001 in 2013, to 1,130 in 2014, to 1,378 in 2015, then dropped slightly to 1,366 in 2016, rose again in 2017 to 1,517. Now LBPD contends that under some type of new classification system, aggravated assaults have dropped to 1,275 YTD in November 2018, producing a pleasant decrease on paper of 16% YTD from Nov. 2017 to Nov. 2018.

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We are further skeptical based on LBPD's failure to include the number of shootings in its crime stats for the public. These are (obviously) part of aggravated assaults. In contrast, LAPD routinely reports shootings (see line items in its most recent report here.) If LAPD can do it, LBPD can too. And if LBPD has been reviewing its aggravated assaults, it surely knows exactly how many shootings it has had. It tells us daily when we inquire daily, but it doesn't make those shooting figures routinely available as LAPD does.

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And we are further skeptical based on the City of Long Beach's refusal (by Mayor/Council inaction) to fund and deploy gunfire detection technology (such as "ShotSpotter") that would show LB's real number shootings (and distinguish between pyrotechnics that some residents mistake for gunfire.) A number of Long Beach neighborhoods continue to experience what we call "ghost" shootings in which residents report gunfire (which may or may not be pyros, which would be clear with ShotSpotter) or residents find bullet casings (LBREPORT.com coverage here) or an ABC7 camera crew (following up a few days after a 10 year old child is hit by a New Year's Eve falling bullet) captures the sound of a gunshot nearby for which officers can't find physical evidence, and thus the gunfire doesn't appear in LBPD's "official" crime stats or anywhere else officially (also in LBREPORT.com coverage here.).

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And we are further skeptical based on what took place roughly 15 years ago, when LBPD's then-brass acquiesced to the wishes of some people inside City Hall and stopped reporting crimes by Council districts that it routinely reported for years. LBPD offered the poor excuse that some of its crime reporting districts overlap Council district lines, which is true but irrelevant. LBPD knows exactly where shootings occur and it routinely ignores Council district lines in reporting citywide crime stats that inherently hide the disproportionate number of violent crimes in some LB neighborhoods (an inequity LBREPORT.com has called the "tale of two cities.")

(LBREPORT.com routinely reports LB homicides and shootings by Council district on our front page.)


All of these factors fuel our skepticism now. LBREPORT.com recommends that savvy LB news consumers remain skeptical (even if other outlets simply regurgitate what they're told) when LB's year end crime stats come out.


Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to incumbent Long Beach officials, development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.


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