Long Beach Police Department Chief Jim McDonnell announced preliminary year-end statistics for 2013 during a news conference, Jan. 2, at the LBPD headquarters.
“We also maintain an exceptional four-and-a-half minute average response time to Priority 1 calls for service,” the chief said.
The preliminary data showed that 2013 had lowest violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) in 41 years, with 2,340 incidents compared 2,705 in 2012 — a decrease of about 13.5 percent.
Property crimes also decreased about 8.5 percent compared to 2012. Property crimes include theft, burglaries, grand theft auto and arson. There was a decrease in bicycle thefts by 25.6 percent and petty theft that was more than $50, which is about 20 percent. An 18.4 percent decrease — 450 — is expected for auto burglaries. However, there is an expected increase in petty theft of under $50 (about 5.5 percent) and residential burglaries by 1 percent.
Rape decreased by about 11.3 percent; there were 102 rapes. Robbery decreased about 10 percent; there were about 1,114 robberies — and aggravated assault decreased about 17.4 percent, compared to the prior year.
Murder increased by about 6.7 percent, with 32 murders in 2013 compared to 30 in 2012. Of the 32 murders, 19 were gang-related.
Criminals are getting more sophisticated, especially when it comes to computer crimes, fraud-type crimes, street gangs and sex trafficking, McDonnell said.
In 2012 there were four sex trafficking investigations and four arrests. In 2013, the numbers at least tripled. There were about 12 sex trafficking investigations in Long Beach and 15 arrests.
“The more we look, the more we find,” he said. “Gangs, in particular, have become more involved in the sex trafficking trade, if you will. And, what we are finding is that that’s is because it is so lucrative and relatively low risk. They can make an awful lot of money. So, we’ve seen a shift, to some degree, from trafficking in narcotics to trafficking in people. The more focus we put on that, the more we find that it’s prevalent, not only in this area, but throughout the nation.”
The 2013 year-end total of officer involved shootings, excluding accidental discharges and animal charges, were 15 with six resulting in death. There were four accidental discharges and there were three animal shootings. No officers were shot in 2013.
“In almost all of these incidents, the suspect shot at or used a weapon, either directed at an officer or at a third party victim,” McDonnell said. “We certainly understand the concern over the increase from the previous year or years. What we are seeing, however, looking at it another way, is officers are forced to place themselves between a threat — a deadly threat in many cases — and the public, in more cases than in prior years.”
He said that the department’s rapid response also make it likely for officers to encounter crimes in progress and suspects fleeing or remaining on the scene of a crime.
McDonnell cited a carjacking case on Dec. 30, 2013, where a victim reported that a man placed a rifle against his head and took his car. LBPD officers found the suspect and vehicle, leading them to a vehicle and foot pursuit before an apprehension. During the vehicle pursuit the LBPD helicopter officers saw an object being thrown from the car. The object ended up being a fully-loaded assault rifle, which was jammed.
“… an indication that the suspect may have attempted to shoot at our officers or others, had the gun not malfunctioned,” he said.
In considering the officer-involved shootings, the chief said that the department individually looks at tactics, training, equipment, trends patterns and reasonable force for each case.
“We try to learn at the micro-level, as much as we can, to be able to be better as we move forward and to allow something to go on that doesn’t need to be allowed to go on,” he said. “And, on the big sense … is there something we can be doing to be able to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings? That is something we are always looking to do both to protect the officers, protect the community and to avoid that type of an intervention.”
He said the LBPD works with mental health specialists, it has medical teams to respond and try and de-escalate the situation where deadly force is necessary.
In November 2013, a woman with mental health issues was shot after the police was alerted that there was a woman who was holding what seemed to be a gun. Officers set up a containment area and attempted to open a dialogue with a woman for two hours. Two separate mental evaluation teams were present to try to set up the dialogue. The woman did not engage the officers, until she pointed what ended up being a replica. The woman was shot at least twice and was taken to a local hospital.
The Long Beach Citizen Complaint Commission gets citizen complaints that the LBPD provides from Internal Affairs. Internal Affairs works closely with the commission, providing the commission with complaint investigations. The commission looks at the complaints for appropriateness and have the ability to do re-interviews and look at evidence from its perspectives. However, their role is not to investigate officer-involved shootings because that is not the way they were set up by charter.
When there is an officer-involved shooting, there is a likelihood that it would result in some type of civil action. The city attorney takes the cases through the court system. In the cases where the jury finds against the city, the city attorney looks at whether to settle or appeal.
The case involving the shooting of Douglas Zerby, who was shot and killed in 2010 by police officer. Zerby, 35, was holding a water hose guzzle is one case still under appeal consideration. While officers were acquitted, a jury in April found the department was liable, awarding Zerby’s father, mother and son a total of $6.5 million.
In December 2013, LBPD gained 40 new officers. Another class is expected to graduate from the police academy in the spring of 2014.
The final 2013 statistics are expected to be available by late January.
McDonnell also boasted the use of social media as a conduit to the community, including its newest social media networks application Go LBPD. The application is expected to be expanded to allow community members to generate online crime reports for select offenses later this year. For details and alerts visit www.nixle.com.