|(Dec. 28, 2018) -- In the real world, there's gunfire reported by multiple Long Beach residents (as LBPD asks residents to do) but even when there's physical evidence that the gunfire occurred -- in one case striking and wounding a 10 year old child -- in the City of Long Beach's statistical world, the shots didn't happen. They're not included in LBPD's officially released crime statistics. They're "ghost" shootings. And two more just happened, this time in LB's Wrigley district.
LBREPORT.com has learned that LBPD received telephone calls from multiple residents reporting gunfire from two areas about a half mile apart: the 3100 block of Chestnut Ave-to-Magnolia Ave. and the area of Spring St./DeForest Ave. about half a mile due west -- at about 1:30 a.m. on December 19. After daybreak, a resident of the 3100 block of Chestnut Ave. spotted bullet casings in the middle of the street, photographed them and turned them over to police...and told LBREPORT.com what had happened.
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LBREPORT.com began pursuing the story, and LBPD Public Information Officers Arantxa Chavarria and Lt. James Richardson both looked into the matter at our request. Lt. Richardson confirmed (Dec. 27) that LBPD received phone calls from residents in the areas of 3100 block Chestnut-Magnolia and Spring/DeForest; LBPD responded with as many as eight units on the calls at one point but from written log notations it's not immediately clear if officers did or didn't specifically check the 3100 block of Chestnut area for evidence of a shooting, but it is clear that LBPD officers went to the Spring St./DeForest Ave area, searched for evidence of a shooting and found none [honestly difficult in the dead of night with no otherwise visible crime scene.]
The gun casings found by a resident after daybreak in the 3100 block of Chestnut Ave. can't definitively be proven to have occurred a few hours earlier; they theoretically might have come from a shooting at some other time. No physical evidence was contemporaneously recovered at the location by officers. Accordingly, under LB's standards, neither of the two Wrigley gunfire incidents in which no persons or property appear to have been hit will be included in LBPD's officially reported crime statistics to be released in the coming days. They're Long Beach "ghost" shootings.
Less than a year ago, a 10 year old girl was struck by a falling bullet at about midnight New Years Eve -- and an X-ray showed the bullet lodged in her arm requiring surgical removal. (If the 10 year old girl had been standing a few inches away, that bullet might have penetrated her skull instead of her arm.) A few days later, ABC7 came to the neighborhood (1000 Lewis Ave., just north of 10th St., west of Alamitos Ave.) to interview the mother and child, and reporter Miriam Hernandez and her camera crew captured the sound of a gunshot fired nearby while the ABC7 camera was rolling. See/hear Ms. Hernandez's ABC7 report here, which notes that the mother said she hears gunfire all the time [6th district, just north of the 1st district border.]
ABC7 reporter Hernandez told LBREPORT.com at the time: "LBPD responded to our call re: shot fired. We saw them take information from a neighbor...there was a patrol car and later two motorcycle officers who we saw parked at the next building. There is definitely a record of officer's visit." But no suspect. No physical evidence recovered at the scene by officers, It's a "ghost" shooting. Seen and heard by potentially millions in America's second largest media market, but officially in L.A. County's second largest city, it didn't happen.
For several years, LB Mayor Robert Garcia (who recommends city budgets) and Councilmembers (who approve them) have declined to fund a digital gunfire location system (such as "ShotSpotter") that could within seconds identify the location of gunfire. Proponents of the system say it would help LBPD respond quickly and spot and apprehend those firing the guns. Of course, such a system would also document the number and locations of gunfire, making it harder for elected officials to claim that "data" show crime is "down." Under LB City Hall's current practice: there's no data, thus no gunfire.
Even when Long Beach shootings are officially acknowledged and counted, the number of shootings remains statistically fogged, grouped within the umbrella category of "aggravated assaults." That practice fully complies with federal bureaucratic crime reporting standards, but leaves LB residents without city-accessible data on how many shootings occurred, where they occurred and if they're increasing or decreasing. Federal rules don't require any city to hide the number of its shootings; LAPD does periodically tally its shooting numbers for the public. LAPD's crime stat updates for the public do separately list "shots fired" and "shooting victims" (see line items on this page on LAPD's website).
LBREPORT.com checks daily with LBPD to see if officers responded to any overnight shootings; LBPD provides the information and we report it (and include it in our updating tally of shootings by Council district on our front page.)
Because a resident in the 3100 block of Chestnut found gun casings a few hours after gunfire was independently and contemporaneously reported to LBPD by multiple residents, LBREPORT.com has chosen to include the Dec. 19 "ghost" shooting in our tally of shootings and on our cumulating map below.
For context, LBREPORT.com provides a map below showing cumulated confirmed shootings/homicides in the area Jan. 1, 2014-Dec. 31, 2017:
On Oct. 4, 2011, then-Councilman (now Mayor) Garcia (joined by then-Councilmembers O'Donnell, DeLong and incumbent Andrews) proposed allocating $350,000 in oil revenue to fund shotspotter gunfire location technology using $350,000 from uplands oil revenue. Their agendizing memo stated "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." The Council approved the item but after nearly a year with no shotspotter deployment, in November 2012 then-Vice Mayor Garcia and then-Councilman O'Donnell agendized an item to erase the shotspotter funding...and use the one-time oil revenue to plug a budget hole and cover LBPD overtime. In their Nov. 2012 memo, Garcia and O'Donnell wrote:
After analysis by City Management and the LBPD, it has been determined that ShotSpotter's technology does not currently meet the public safety needs of the City. Further, it has been concluded that a gunfire detection technology that is compatible with the City's landscape does not currently exist with any vendor. At this time, the existing funds will not be used to purchase or subscribe to this type of program...
The issue has created a friendly difference of opinion between LBREPORT.com publisher Bill Pearl and now-retired LBPD Administration Bureau Chief Braden Phillips. Several months ago, we greeted each other at an event and Pearl quipped, "And we still don't have ShotSpotter" to which Mr. Phillips swiftly replied, "Yes, they use it in Chicago and look what's happening there."
LBREPORT.com's opinion in the wake of the Dec. 19 Wrigley "ghost" shooting is an editorial at this link.
In our view, expecting a digital device to stop Chicago's shootings asks too much, but it doesn't ask too much for Long Beach, a city claiming to be digitally advanced and boasting an "open data" policy, for LB's Mayor and City Council to agendize an item that (1) asks LBPD to publicly disclose shooting data that it already has and confirmed (as LAPD does) and (2) for the Council to fund ShotSpotter that would document shootings that LBPD currently doesn't have.
When a variable isn't measured, it makes it harder to change. Until Long Beach shootings are accurately measured, residents in gunfire-impacted Long Beach neighborhoods will continue to see, hear and endure "ghost" shootings that aren't accurately measured and their City officially contends didn't occur.
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