News & Politics

Was the LAPD Hiding Its Real Violent Crime Numbers?

A study of the last eight years of crime reporting reveals that LA police may have engaged in purposeful data deflation.

Nearly 14,000 serious assaults in Los Angeles were recorded as minor offenses by the city’s police department, leading to an inaccurate estimate of violent crime reductions in the city. The discrepancy was reported following a Los Angeles Times investigation of LAPD crime data collected between 2005 and 2012. The newspaper says that the misclassifications took place “during a time when the LAPD was reporting major drops in crime across the city.”

According to the Times investigation, had that data been accurately reported, violent crime tallies for the eight-year period would be 7 percent higher, while serious assaults would increase by 16 percent.

When presented with the errors, LAPD Assistant Chief Michael Moore, who oversees the department’s crime tracking database, told the Times, “We know this can have a corrosive effect on the public's trust of our reporting. That's why we are committed to...eliminating as much of the error as possible." 

This is the second time the Timeshas uncovered problems with the way the LAPD classifies crimes. Last year, following an audit of crime data from a year-long period ending in fall 2013, the newspaper found the city’s police department had classified approximately 1,200 violent crimes as minor offenses. Those misclassified crimes were left out of violent crime totals the department initially made public. With those figures included, the violent crime rate in Los Angeles for that 12-month period would have been 7 percent higher, while aggravated assault figures would have risen 14 percent.

In response to those findings, the LAPD said it had made a number of corrective efforts to ensure proper crime classification. The latest misclassifications suggest the system may require even more adjustments.

TheTimesemphasized that the erroneously categorized offenses “were not numerous enough to alter the overall downward trend” in crime.

There have been complaints that in weekly meetings, police higher-ups have placed too much pressure on captains to reduce crime figures in their districts. Moore conceded to the Times that the tone in those meetings can be “condescending” and “too pressure cooked.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writing fellow and the senior director of Make It Right, a project of the Independent Media Institute.