May 20, 2007

5/07 update on Lakewood Crime Statistics 2007; "lies, damn lies, and statistics"

[originally published 2-4-07 and amended 5-20-07]

For as much as the city council touts Lakewood's ever lower crime statistics you would think that the city would put all these stats on their website from year to year so that residents can really see what they are getting for their law enforcement dollar. The latest (rather scant) info posted on the Lakewood website is from 2004!! Why aren't they posted? Because the city does not want you to find or look too closely at the real crime figures and question their headlines, speeches and newsletter fodder. Once again in the "state of the city" address in January 2007 Mayor Van Nostran touts: "Serious crime dropped 16 percent last year and property crime dropped 19 percent" (the city has not yet posted the full text of the speech or details on the statistics backing up the remark). No definitions of serious crime. No indication where we are from 2000...not even an indication of what years he is comparing. Supposedly he is comparing 2006 with 2005 but that is not clear and 2006 stats were not posted on the LASD or Lakewood websites as of the date of the speech. LAAG made numerous requests for the 2006 statistics which were supposed to be posed by February but from what we can tell did not make it on to the LASD stats page until 4/12/07, even though it appears the statistics were known much earlier

When you make year to year comparisons and you have an increase one year and a decrease the next, of course they report that as a decrease..but compared to what? There is well-known saying popularized by Mark Twain: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. The semi-ironic statement refers to the persuasive power of numbers, and succinctly describes how even accurate statistics can be used to bolster inaccurate arguments. In other words its real easy to "cherry pick" the data and support just about any argument you want.

LAAG looked a little closer and found an example of Mark Twain's statement:

For "Part I" crimes (Murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, grand theft auto and arson) here is what we dug up at LASD's crime stats pages:

For the city of Lakewood only; crime rate per 100,000 population (Part 1 or "serious crimes like felonies):

2004....412.9 (9.76 percent increase over 2001)
2005....378.1 (1.40 percent increase over 2001)
2006....320.7 (15 percent decrease over 2005)

Now for comparison the city of Artesia's crime rate for 2005 (also patrolled by the sheriffs) was 266.0 or 42% lower than Lakewood's rate for the same 2005 reporting year. The City of Artesia also had a 21% crime decrease in 2006 as compared to 2005. Similarly Hawaiian Gardens had a 19% drop and Paramount had a 14% drop from 2005 to 2006. So in that light Lakewood does not appear to be that unique in the area.

Also lots of talk about the very costly Sheriff's mobile command center (really just a toy that will be outdated before the next disaster) and the $18 million new station, but not much in the way of tangible material on either the Lakewood website or the LASD website with detailed crime stats so that citizens can make informed decisions on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis.

Also no statistics comparing what each of these crimes is costing us in terms of LASD costs. Law Enforcement hates when taxpayers look at that as their costs are typically hard to justify and their enforcement efforts do not always lead to more arrests or more arrest efficiency (the true measure of your law enforcement tax dollars). Don't forget that LASD STARTING salaries are almost $60,000 per year which does not include the best benefits, vacation and overtime policy out there (far better than the private sector can afford) in addition to retiring at 50 at 90% of your highest years pay. Not bad, especially when get to kick back at a station like Lakewood which pays overtime for fireworks patrol!! (reportedly $100,000 just for July 2006)

Look at the crime stats the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department puts out. 2006 was not posted for Lakewood until Mid April 2007 LASD 2006 crime stats county wide. That is not acceptable. Also very hard to make a year to year comparison or to target areas within the city or even compare cities without manually printing everything out and doing your own math. Very user "unfriendly". For an example of how this should be done take a look here Even LAPD does a better job than the LASD and they are a similar sized agency to LASD. LAPD stats page There are other pages noting problems with crime stats: LAPD Explains the Numbers and COMPSTAT and Crime Reduction

Here is an example of why more complex statistics interfaces are needed for residents. Lets say one wants to compare the effectiveness of one parking control scheme of Lakewood with Cerritos as to its effects on auto theft. We know that Cerritos prohibits overnight parking on the street. Lakewood does anything but. If we average out the 2005 and 2006 reporting years for grand theft auto in both cities and use the "crime rate per 10,000" to control for population differences we see that the car theft rate in Cerritos was 52.2 while in the Lakewood station it was almost 84 car thefts per 10,000 people. That is statistically significant and shows that Cerritos' no overnight parking rule must be having an effect in lowering the car theft rate as that is the only difference between the two cities. On top of that it is clear from looking at the Lakewood stats that Grand Theft Auto is the second biggest number of reported "serious" crimes after Larceny (Theft)

We found a nice link for crime stats city by city to give you head to head comparisons but it only worked for two cities at a time and is from the FBI crime stats site so the latest data is 2005. But is does a good job giving you comparisons. Also make sure you focus on the rate per 100,000 people as that is the only way you can make comparisons between cities with varying populations. Just make sure you add in the other city for comparisons. (It is best to use all the cities that border Lakewood, realizing that Long Beach is the only city bordering Lakewood that has its own police force) Also note the national crime averages per 100,000 residents.

Also one feature that we are looking for is a site that shows you the officer to citizen ratio and then the costs per officer or cost per citizen for the officers. then when you look at crime stats per 100,000 you get a rough idea of how "effective" the law enforcement dollar is. The problem with law enforcement is too much is spent for very little results. If you know of such a site let us know.

Quite frankly the LASD statistics are user unfreindly, way too slow coming out to be useful and need to be presented in such a fashion that all LASD cities can easily be compared from year for long periods of time. As it stands now most police agencies are well ahead of the LASD, such as LAPD and even much smaller cities than Lakewood that have their own police department, such as Gardena with a population of 60,000 compared to Lakewood's 83,000.

This is what you get (as of 1/07) when you search for "crime statistics" on Lakewood's website: (you dont even get a deep link to the LASD stats page)

Search Results

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Click the link if you are only looking for the complete phrase 'crime statistics'.

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Search Results 9 Items Found. show all results

Crime statistics show Lakewood at - or near - historic lows
Statistics for 2002 compiled by the Crime Analysis unit at the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station show that levels of serious crime in Lakewood are at – or near – ten-year lows.Robbery is down 46.5% s

Think Neighborhood Watch in 2006
Do you want to become more involved in your community or protect yourself, family and property? If so, Neighborhood Watch is the program for you.

Arrests soar as 'revolving door' of criminal justice system threatens public safety advances Lakewood officials are criticizing the "revolving door system of criminal justice" in Los Angeles County that has spiked crime and arrest rates throughout the region. While crime rates are up, so are ...

2004 State of the City: The seven challenges facing Lakewood During his recent term as Mayor, Lakewood Council Member Joseph Esquivel, at the 2004 State of the City event, focused on seven challenges facing the city in the year ahead.

Public Safety Report: Crime levels drop again in 2003
Statistics gathered by the Crime Analysis unit at the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station show that crime in Lakewood continued the steep, downward trend. Lakewood has enjoyed a significant 35 percent decrease...

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Take a look at how Bellflower is reporting statistics - they chose to acquire a tool independently from LASD. As the year builds you will see the year to year comparison by call type. LASD is aware of this tool for statistics but has chosen not to utilize it. Bellflower felt it was important to provide this information to their citizens and pays for it independently. LASD provided for the technical set up of the data for the service. Any city that is a contract city for LASD can start this service. The issue becomes one of, who pays for it.