Year-end crime statistics unveiled last week by city officials showed murders decreased by 8.3 percent while overall crime remained essentially flat compared to 2015 levels.
Violent crimes— murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults, etc.—increased by 3.5 percent compared to 2015.
Screenshot of Violent Crime Stats
Property crimes decreased by half a percent with notable double-digit decreases in bike theft, grand theft and petty theft greater than $50. Property crime includes burglaries of residences, garages, businesses and autos, as well as grand theft, petty theft under $50, petty theft over $50, bike theft, grand theft auto and arson.
Screenshot of Property Crime
“While many cities across California saw increases in murder and overall crime, I am grateful that Long Beach saw its murder rate decrease and that overall crime remained flat," Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said, during a news conference last week, that current laws in effect—such as AB 109 which reduces the number of inmates in the state’s 33 prisons and Proposition 47, which reduces drug possession felonies to misdemeanors have forced law enforcement to look at crime differently.
According to Luna, about 13,500 prisoners have been released, including those with mental health issues, because of these new laws. Coupled with the loss of officers during the recession and a 6.6 percent increase of calls for service in 2016 (about 13,000 calls), Luna said the police department’s employees have had to work really hard on an everyday basis.
“Remember that all those prisoners we’re talking about releasing, those are a lot of individuals that realistically need a lot of help,” Luna said. “We’re talking about people with mental illness, people that are suffering from substance abuse, and it does create a lot of homelessness in the city. And when you look at our workload solely in the police department [...] that's more workload. So our people are working harder than ever, and that's important to throw out there.”
During the release of last year’s crime statistics, city officials also announced plans to connect the city’s innovation team with the police department in order to help strengthen relations between law enforcement and the community and maximize effective policing.
Through this partnership officials announced three areas of continued focus:
- Deployment of Resources with Data Driven Policing Approach
The i-team will build upon the police department’s efforts to strategically deploy resources and maximize enforcement efforts through data-driven approaches, according to city officials. Efforts have been made to raise awareness of increases in certain violent crimes through community meetings, educational campaigns and advocating victims’ rights.
- Public Safety Continuum and Community Policing
As part of the public safety continuum, the police department continues to build on relationships with all city departments and community partners that help combine resources toward a common goal and effectively reduce crime and reduce quality of life issues, officials said in a statement. The i-team will help find more methods of cultivating partnerships with departments and community members through Safe Long Beach.
- Education and Outreach
Through a $600,000 grant to strengthen law enforcement and community relations, the police department implemented training reflecting the President’s Task Force on 21 Century Policing, as well as a Community Police Academy where participants have the opportunity to gain insight into police training operations.
The city has also increased community outreach efforts through an updated “Go LBPD” mobile app that includes expanded information categories, online reporting and additional social media presence.
“We are incredibly excited to bring the human-centered approach to public safety in Long Beach,” said Tracy Colunga, the City’s Innovation Team Director, in a statement. “We are proud to support the amazing men and women of our law enforcement community and work with community members to deploy multiple strategies that reduce crime and further enhance community-police relations.”