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Is the LAPD Manipulating Crime Numbers to Make City Seem Safer Than It Really Is?

The Los Angeles Police Department once again finds itself embroiled in controversy. But unlike controversies of the past that have vexed my former employer, this one does not involve someone being shot, beaten, or otherwise mistreated by police officers. The present strife instead concerns the more mundane matter of keeping the books. Or, if the allegations of one senior officer are to be believed, cooking them.

This month, the Los Angeles Times reported on some remarkable claims made by Captain Lillian Carranza, to wit, that the department was being less than truthful in reporting its crime numbers so as to make the city seem safer than it in fact is. Captain Carranza, the commanding officer of Van Nuys Division, in the San Fernando Valley, made her accusations in a claim for damages against the city. Such claims are most often precursors to a lawsuit, and Carranza alleges she was denied a promotion to the rank of commander for having raised these issues within the department.

“They are not only lies, but they are damn lies,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck of Captain Carranza’s allegations. “If I'm cooking the books, I'm not doing a good job,” he said, noting that reported violent crime in the city was up 4 percent this year.

The LAPD, says Carranza in her complaint, “engaged in a highly complex and elaborate coverup in an attempt to hide the fact that command officers had been providing false crime figures to the public attempting to convince the public that crime was not significantly increasing.” She specifically cites two of the LAPD’s 21 patrol divisions, Central and Pacific, as having reported inaccurate crime stats. (Central Division covers downtown L.A.; Pacific covers the city’s west side, south of the Santa Monica Freeway.) Both these areas, says Carranza, underreported aggravated assaults by 10 percent. The commanding officers of both divisions, Carranza says in her complaint, were later promoted to commander.