|(Jan. 16, 2018, 11:20 a.m., updated 12:57 p.m.) -- At or about midnight as 2018 arrived, a ten year old girl stepped outside with her Mom to greet the New Year in the 1000 block of Lewis Ave and the child was hit by bullet shot into the air. ABC7 (KABC-TV) learned what happened, sent a crew to get the story and while reporter Miriam Hernandez interviewed family members, the camera picked up and recorded the stunning sound of a gunshot from an alley near the family's home. Ms. Hernandez reported that family members say they hear shots around their home all the time. (ABC7's video and text report can be viewed here.)
These two shootings are among Long Beach's uncounted "ghost shootings," and might have remained so if not for ABC7 and Ms. Hernandez's reporting. But there's more.
Under current LBPD practices (to which LB electeds have not objected), and ultimately as a result of Mayor and Council budget actions, these two shootings won't be visible as shootings in LBPD official crime stats or in any city released data of which we're aware. And "ghost shootings" are simply one aspect of a larger issue.
Under current Long Beach practices, and despite a Mayor/City Council proclaimed "open data" policy, no Long Beach shootings of any kind -- even when documented by LBPD -- are separately listed and routinely available for public access in the City's official crime statistics.
In Long Beach, L.A. County's second largest city, shootings are acknowledged but bureaucratically camouflaged.
After ABC7's report, we asked LBPD PIO Arantxa Chavarria what happened. Ms. Chavarria says that on January 5, LBPD officers were dispatched to a local hospital for a report of an assault with a deadly weapon. [Local hospitals advise LBPD if someone arrives with a shooting wound.] PIO Chavarria the incident was reported to have occurred on Dec. 31 in the 1000 block of Lewis Ave, appears to have been caused by a descending bullet from New Year's Eve celebratory gunfire.
The child's parents were aware of the injury at the time it occurred but were unaware it was caused by a bullet, PIO Chavarria says...and LBPD says it didn't learn of the second shooting (no visible victim but audio recorded by ABC7's camera crew) until Ms. Hernandez's ABC7 story reported it.
[12:57 p.m. UPDATE: ABC7 reporter Hernandez tells LBREPORT.com: "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." LBREPORT.com will follow-up on this.]
And even if these two shootings had been reported to LBPD in real time, under current LBPD practices that data wouldn't become routinely visible as shootings in the city's officially released crime statistics. LBPD doesn't visibly list shootings among its officially released crime statistics. Like many other police agencies, LBPD includes shootings within the umbrella category of "aggravated assaults" (which includes multiple serious crimes in addition to shootings, including domestic violence.) That practice fully complies with federal crime reporting standards, but it leaves LB residents without city-accessible data on how many shootings occurred, where they occurred and if they're increasing or decreasing in LBPD's North. West, South or East Divisions.
Furthermore, neither of the two Lewis Ave. shootings will be included within LBPD's aggravated assaults category. LBPD Chavarria says the category of aggravated assaults requires evidence of intent, and the New Year's Eve gunshot that wounded the 10 year old girl would likely be classified among "miscellaneous" crimes as a "negligent discharge of a firearm."
As for the shooting that occurred within earshot of Ms. Hernandez and ABC7's camera crew, it likely won't be counted anywhere, since it's not currently clear if LBPD dispatched an officer to the scene [UPDATE: ABC7 reporter Hernandez says LBPD did dispatch an officer] and [UPDATE] we don't know if LBPD found physical evidence (spent rounds, etc.) showing that a shooting occurred.
This "ghost shooting":data gap has other consequences. It leaves uncertain if LB's widely reported 2017 drop in homicides resulted from fewer shootings (safer neighborhoods) or despite more shootings (less safe neighborhoods.) Either is possible, since a shooting may or may not become a homicide depending a few inches difference in a bullet's trajectory. If the 10 year old girl on Lewis Ave. had been standing a few inches away, that bullet might have penetrated her skull instead of her arm.
Although Long Beach PD (and the L.A. County Sheriff's Dept.) don't routinely list the number of shootings in their crime stats, the City of Los Angeles' LAPD does. LAPD's routinely available crime stat updates separately list "shots fired" and "shooting victims" (screen-save below from page on LAPD's website).
LBPD routinely responds to inquiries by media outlets about shootings; it doesn't conceal shootings that it knows about and can document. LBREPORT.com has used those individually confirmed shootings to create unofficial maps that show where shootings and stabbings occur over time. They show what LBREPORT.com has repeatedly called a "tale of two cities," in which poor and working class LB neighborhoods disproportionately endure shootings while middle class and affluent areas remain virtually untouched.
In 2017, our unofficial tally of LBPD confirmed shootings occurred in parts of LB's 1st Council district (north of downtown/west-central) and 6th Council district (central LB). Over half of 59 shootings we reported in 2017 (fatal, non-fatal and no-hit) took place in 1st Council district and the 6th Council district or in areas bordering the two districts.
LBREPORT.com individually confirmed each shooting tallied below but we may have missed some so our numbers below are unofficial and (we believe for reasons stated below) are likely under-counted. In 2017, LBREPORT.com reported:
In addition, LBREPORT.com believes the number of officially-reported LB shootings is likely under-counted -- not wilfully misreported by LBPD but simply undercounted as a factual matter. This is ultimately the result of actions by LB's Mayor, City Council and LBPD management that have resisted budgeting the high tech "ShotSpotter" gunfire location system, an issue on which we've also previously reported and commented. The system's manufacturer says it documents all gunfire, including instances -- like the two shooting incidents reported by ABC7 -- when shots were fired that residents may not report and officers may not learn about on their own. ShotSpotter's manufacturer says that when cities deploy the system, they often discover that they have more shootings than previously reported.
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...
Today, the upland oil revenue has decreased but Measure A (LB's June 2016 sales tax increase ballot measure urged by Mayor Garcia and approved by LB voters) has given City Hall an infusion of over $45+ million annually...but residents in LB gunfire impacted areas still don't have ShotSpotter.
The issue has created a friendly difference of opinion between LBREPORT.com publisher Bill Pearl and now-retired LBPD Administration Bureau Chief Braden Phillips. At a recent event, we greeted each other 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."
Expecting a digital device to stop Chicago's shootings asks too much, but it shouldn't ask too much for a City boasting an "open data" policy for LB's Mayor and City Council to agendize an item asking LBPD to publicly disclose shooting data that it already has and to fund and deploy ShotSpotter that would document shootings that LBPD currently doesn't have.
When an issue isn't measured, it makes it harder to change. Until shootings are accurately measured and honestly discussed, residents in some Long Beach neighborhoods will continue to see, hear and endure "ghost" shootings in a number currently unmeasured...and LB's other shootings will remain publicly untallied by Long Beach officialdom.
LBPD says the shooting occurred on Dec. 31. Other media outlets indicate it occurred on Jan. 1. We initially used LBPD's date but have since changed the time to "at or about midnight" and adjusted our headline accordingly.
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