For the first time in 12 years, crime reports taken by the Los Angeles Police Department show an increase in the statistical category labeled as violent crimes. Each of the crimes that goes into the category were up in 2014: homicide and robbery just a little, rape 12 percent higher, and aggravated assault up 24 percent, per an LA Times data analysis. The rising numbers just so happen to occur as doubts are increasing about the truthiness, shall we say, of the crime stats the LAPD has used to trumpet declining crime for so long now. The LA Times earlier this year caught the department fudging by down-sizing nearly 1,200 serious violent crimes, most of them aggravated assaults, to lower-level offenses. That may just be the beginning. Chief Charlie Beck "thanked" the Times for exposing the erroneous down-classifying of serious crimes back in August. After the Times story, the LAPD inspector general announced an audit of the the department's crime data for several years, with an aim of determining if the numbers are accurate.
Property crimes such as burglary and car theft continued to drop in 2014 — at least according to LAPD stats, which essentially are built from crime reports taken and classified into a level of seriousness by the department. It's the climbing violent crime numbers which will get all the attention. The LA Times' year-end analysis of the LAPD stats shows such a big jump in some violent crime categories that experts say it can likely only be explained by the department itself starting to self-correct how it labels crimes. Beck acknowledges in the story that some of the rise is due to internal changes in how the LAPD classifies crime reports.
Determining how much of the crime increase was due to improvements in record-keeping is difficult, experts said. To do so, reporting errors made in previous years would need to be corrected to ensure that comparisons were accurate.
Department officials declined to make public multiple years of crime data that would have made such an analysis possible….
Jay Wachtel, criminal justice professor at Cal State Fullerton, said that because the department has changed the way it classifies crimes, it probably will take several years before the LAPD's statistics provide an accurate accounting of crime in the city.
"Now that we have a certain reporting standard, if they hew to that standard then we can actually see which way the trend line goes," Wachtel said. "It will take time for it to shake out within the department."
The Times story also deftly defrocks a claim by Beck that the LAPD's violent crime numbers for 2014 are higher because of national campaigns to increase awareness of domestic violence. Reports of domestic violence went down sharply in LA County areas patrolled by the sheriff, and were steady in Orange County and New York. So do the LAPD's stats showing a four-fold increase in one year accurately reflect the state of domestic violence in Los Angeles, or is something else going on? "Things don't quadruple from one year to the next," James Alan Fox, criminology professor at Northeastern University, told the LAT. "There is no real reason to believe that all of a sudden men and women are abusing their partners more than ever."