The Los Angeles police Department misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies, forestalling the publication of accurate crime statistics, it was reported recently. The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD’s published statistics on serious crime used to judge the department’s performance, the Los Angeles Times reported, based on the findings of its own investigation. Nearly all the misclassified crimes were actually aggravated assaults
If they had been recorded correctly, the total aggravated assaults for the 12-month period would have been almost 14 percent higher than the official figure, The Times found. and the tally for violent crime overall would have been nearly 7 percent higher. Numbers-based strategies have come to dominate policing in Los Angeles and other cities. However, flawed statistics leave police and the public with an incomplete picture. Unreliable figures can undermine efforts to map crime and deploy officers where they will make the most difference.
More than two dozen current and retired LAPD officers interviewed by The Times gave differing explanations for why crimes are misclassified. Some said it was inadvertent. Others said the problem stemmed from relentless, top-down pressure to meet crime reduction goals.
“Whenever you reported a serious crime, they would find any way possible to make it a minor crime,” Detective Tom Vettraino, who retired in 2012 after 31 years on the force, told The Times in a reference to his supervisors. In a written response to questions from The Times, LAPD officials said the department “does not in any way encourage manipulating crime reporting or falsifying data.”