|(Sept. 9, 2019, 6:45 a.m.) -- Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has been holding "Meet the Mayor" meetings in various Council districts. At the relatively small meetings (to which some have received invitations from the Mayor), he offers selectively cited LBPD crime stats. He tells audiences that LBPD crime stats show major crimes citywide are down. He says they're lower now than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago. LB murders are at near record lows. They're lower than in other major cities of similar size. Long Beach is safer now than it was years ago, he says...and adds that perceptions to the contrary stem in part from social media where residents learn about crimes they previously didn't know about.
LBREPORT.com recorded video of the Mayor's crime stat representations at a recent 3rd Council district event and webposted it here so residents citywide could see/hear it.
Some Council incumbents have also begun echoing a similar verbal formula. Councilmembers Price, Supernaw and Austin recently used a meeting of their "Public Safety Committee" (to which Garcia appointed them) to agendize an LBPD presentation on midyear crime stats and then repeated the numbers offered to them in their Council office "newsletters." (The Councilmembers scheduled the meeting one day after voting for a Mayor-recommended FY20 budget that fails to restore 186 police officers for LB taxpayers, including LBPD's former field anti-gang unit. Under 2016 Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax increase, LB City Hall currently receives roughly $60 million more in revenue each year; in July 2019, LB Councilmembers voted without dissent to put a measure on a special citywide March 2020 ballot that would make the "temporary" tax permanent.)
Mayor Garcia's recitation of reported LBPD crime stats is numerically true. The Councilmembers' recitation of reported LBPD's stats is numerically true. But for a number of reasons, the reported numbers aren't complete and don't present an accurate picture of what some LB residents experience in their neighborhoods. In our view, the Mayor/Councilmembers' selective recitation of some crime stats does a disservice by not acknowledging and a number of crime stat realities. We explain these below and offer a number of constructive actions the Mayor and Councilmembers could take to address them.
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Reliance on "citywide" crime statistics. "Citywide" crime stats combine conditions across neighborhoods with very different crime experiences, effectively masking real-world conditions in various neighborhoods. "Citywide" data numerically dilute and camouflage conditions experienced in specific neighborhoods; they're a starting point for analysis but not the end of discussion. (In addition, a number of cities and jurisdictions in So. Cal have also reported crime stat decreases, not just Long Beach.)
Crime stats reported for LBPD "Divisions" (North, South, East, West) may not reflect conditions in parts of some Council districts: LBPD Divisions cross Council district lines. LBPD's "East Division" covers Council districts 3, 4 and 5, and conditions encountered by residents/businesses along the shore (3d dist.), the working-class Zaferia/Anaheim St/PCH neighborhoods between Cherry-Redondo (4th dist.) and suburban NE Long Beach (5th dist.) may be entirely different in multiple crime categories.
Long Beach fails to provide crime statistics by Council districts. For years, the public had access to Part 1 crime stats for persons and property by Council districts. City Hall ended this (entering the 2004 election cycle) by claiming it was to maintain "accuracy" because some LBPD crime reporting districts cross Council district lines (which is true). However that pretext is easily collapsed; the Mayor/Council continue to cite "citywide" crime stats which cross ALL Council district lines, and LBPD obviously knows the addresses/locations of crime scenes that occur along Council district borders and could properly attribute them. Providing Part 1 crime data by Council district would empower the public to compare conditions in Council districts and hold their incumbents accountable. Any Long Beach City Councilmember(s) could agendize an item to direct city management to resume reporting Part 1 crimes by Council districts.
The City of LB makes it needlessly difficult to access neighborhood crime data in a form enabling useful analysis. The City currently offers two basic online ways to access LB crime stats. One is a digital interactive map of individual crimes, which is near useless for data comparison purposes; it only covers a rolling six month period and requires multiple steps that display individual crimes without easily comparable data. The other method is LBPD monthly and annual crime stats for neighborhood-level LBPD crime reporting districts. These ARE useful data BUT the City persists in offering them in primitive hard copy (pdf) form instead of in a digital format (Excel or the like) enabling their analysis. LBPD likely already has the data in a spreadsheet format. Choosing to display the data to the public in pdf hard copy form requires the public to hand-enter or hand-transcribe numbers in a burdensome, time consuming process. As a result, it's difficult for neighborhood residents to access crime stat numbers they deserve to know affecting their neighborhood. Any Long Beach City Councilmember(s) could agendize an item to direct city management to provide crime stat data in an Excel spreadsheet or other digitally useful format.
Elected officials too often limit discussion of shootings only to fatal shootings (murders) Mayor Garcia cites murders but omits non-fatal shootings. The difference between a murder and a non-fatal shooting is sometimes a matter of millimeters or good or bad aim. Every non-fatal shooting disrupts a e neighborhood (sirens, police tape, sometimes blocked streets and helicopters.) Yet the City of Long Beach doesn't provide routinely accessible crime stats on LB's
The per capita rate of fatal shootings in Council districts 1 and 6 in July and August 2019 reached per capita levels similar to Chicago. Although Mayor Garcia boasts that LB has fewer murders than other cities of similar size, he's relying on "citywide" LB crime stats that hide the fact that in July and August 2019, two of LB's nine Council districts had per capita fatal shootings similar to Chicago. (LBREPORT.com coverage here and here). In addition, if Council districts 1 and 6 were an independent city, its 2018 homicides would have approached that of the City of Compton (LBREPORT.com coverage here.)
LB crime stats don't identify multiple neighborhood-impacting "Part 2" non-violent ("quality of life") crimes LBPD crime stats don't separately list "Part 2" crimes (which are all crimes that aren't Part 1 serious/violent crimes, mainly misdemeanors or infractions.) LB's crime stats lump all Part 2 crimes together in one category although they include neighborhood-impacting crimes that some LB Councilmembers call "quality of life" crimes (often attributed to portions of LB's vagrant/drug addicted populations.) Without a separate break-out of neighborhood impacting Part 2 crimes, one can't know from LB's publicly available crime stats what types of neighborhood impacting quality of life crimes were committed and reported, in what areas they're being committed and reported and whether they are increasing or decreasing. Any Long Beach City Councilmember(s) could agendize an item to direct city management (LBPD) to begin listing among its crime stats selected "quality of life" neighborhood-impacting Part 2 crimes.
Changes in state laws may have affected and suppressed reporting of some crimes Sacramento legislators and CA voters have changed a number of state laws (including AB 109, Prop 47, Prop 57 and various "criminal justice reforms") affecting how some crimes are classified, the responses to those crimes by police agencies and whether victims of those crimes may now be disinclined (or discouraged by police agencies) from filing reports of these crime. In addition, felonies downgraded to misdemeanors (which in most cases require an officer to observe them committed) plus the near-immediate release of some arrestees may all suppress reporting these crimes. As a result, numerical decreases in such crimes may not reflect real decreases in crimes, but simply fewer police responses and reports filed (generating crime stats) for such crimes.
These factors, individually and collectively, help explain why numerical crime stat decreases cited by LB elected officials may not reflect real-world conditions experienced by LB residents in their neighborhoods.
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