Property, violent crime up in east Long Beach, more staffing cuts to police department expected

Michelle Lecours
Staff Writer

Long Beach Police Department’s East Division held its quarterly community gathering at the Groundwater Treatment Plant on Monday, outlining rising crime statistics for June 2012.
Long Beach’s east division encompasses approximately 170,000 of the half a million Long Beach residents and receives about 55,000 calls for service per year, said East Patrol Division Commander Michael Beckman.
Beginning with violent crime statistics, Beckman advised focusing on the prevention of crime versus the statistics themselves. “When I give you these numbers, what I want everybody to do is remember, let’s not get caught up in the statistics,” instructed Beckman. “Let’s see what we can do as a community, as a collective, as a joint effort between police department and citizenry to try to drive these numbers down.”
While citywide violent crime is up 3.1 percent since last year, these offenses are up more than double that at 8 percent on the east side. As of June 2012, rape has increased 7.7 percent, robberies are up 8.7 percent and aggravated assaults are up 9.4 percent in the past year.
“When you see the 8 percent for the East Division and the 3.1 percent citywide, that gives you an indication that in the east division, violent crime at least in part is rising,” said Beckman.
Property crime, which includes residential burglaries, garage burglaries, auto burglaries as well as bike and auto thefts, is up 11.9 percent citywide and almost double that on the eastside with a 21.8 percent increase. Specifically, residential burglaries are up 14 percent, auto burglaries are up 18 percent, auto theft is up 30 percent and garage burglary is up a staggering 151-percent increase. The most common loss in a garage burglary is bicycles. Even locked up inside garages, bicycles are stolen at an alarming upsurge.
“Protect your person and your property like you would your identity,” Beckman said and advised locking car doors, setting car alarms, and if resources are available, invest in a home security system.
Beckman described a Long Beach homeowner’s effective use of technology when his home had been burglarized recently. That victim was able to access video recorded by his home security system to see an image of the suspect both entering and leaving the property. When police responded, one officer recognized the person and before the end of that officer’s shift, the suspect was found, booked and jailed for residential burglary.
Neighbors who are home during the day, senior citizens and those with home-based businesses are very effective in keeping an eye out on their neighborhoods, Beckman said. “When we go out as part of our investigation, we do what we call ‘Knock and Talks.’ We’ll go knock on the doors of your neighbors,” he said. “If you see something that doesn’t look right in your neighborhood, you know better than we do. Please give us a call. Let us come out.”
If there is a suspicious person or vehicle in the neighborhood, call the police, he said. “It’s our responsibility, it’s our obligation as police officers to dust those people off and tell them ‘Hey, this is the reason why I’m here: This neighborhood looks out for each other.’ And send them on their way,” Beckman said.
Setting your car and home alarms is highly effective in preventing burglaries, according to LBPD. “We actually have people who think that it’s an inconvenience to set the alarm,” Beckman said. “If you’ve made the investment and taken the time to buy an alarm system, please go the extra step to set your alarms. Bad guys don’t like noises. Bad guys don’t like lights. So if you can make sure your property is well lit at night that will go a long way to getting the bad person to go someplace else. Hopefully, right out of Long Beach.”
Recently, an auto-theft suspect told police that he simply checks doors handles to see if they’re locked. The suspect estimated that 1 in 10 car doors is unlocked, and he is able to get in and out of the vehicle in seconds with loose change, cell phones, purses and computer equipment, including iPads.
In addition to rising crime rates, Long Beach Police has experienced ongoing cuts to the department and expect more by year’s end. This July, the department reports 815 officers on staff. By December, that number will drop to 760. “Your police department is getting smaller before your very eyes,” Beckman said. “We are likely going to see some service impacts.”
Beckman reports that LBPD response times are among the best in California, but the dwindling staff has slowed response times. From the time a resident calls 911 to the moment a police officer arrives has increased.
For a “life or death” emergency call, the average response time was 4.2 minutes in March and up to 4.7 in June. For a non-emergency call, the response was 17.2 minutes in March and up to 21.3 minutes in June. The lowest priority call to the department, request to file a police report, callers saw an officer in approximately 26.1 minutes in March and almost 29.3 minutes in June.
The cuts in the Long Beach police force have eliminated positions in investigative units and those officers are now on the street. “We’re not able to have investigators,” Beckman said. “We have to put these people in the street.”
In addition, community programs, social programs and civilian staff have been cut dramatically. “We’re doing the best that we can, although some of those folks are no longer with us,” Beckman said. “So our ability to respond to quality of life complaints is going to further be hindered and I think it’s fair to say if we’re talking about service impacts, our responsiveness is going to be impacted as time goes on.”

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3 thoughts on “Property, violent crime up in east Long Beach, more staffing cuts to police department expected

  1. Since there are very few medical marijuana dispensaries on the east side to blame on the rise in crime, maybe city hall is all wrong on this issue.

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