Increased Shootings Blamed on Pandemic

By: 
Bill Pearl

Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna blames the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, not thin police levels resulting from mayor/council actions from 2009-2015 and a September 2020 council defunding, for a recent increase in shootings.

“We believe the possible cause for these crime increases are [sic] related to the serious impacts on the criminal justice system and our community resulting from the COVID pandemic. Prisons and jails have released large numbers of inmates to reduce the risk of exposure; more repeat offenders are being released on bail; trials and other court proceedings have experienced significant delays; school closures and lack of programming has negatively impacted youth engagement; and, with a record number of gun sales in 2020, there are more guns on the street.

“The pandemic has also created an inability for the Police Department to engage our community in person, which has negatively impacted our community policing efforts.”

The chief (a senior official among city management) takes this position in a March 17 memo requested by council-voted action on Feb. 2, prompted by increased shootings. The chief’s position may or may not come to public council discussion (which depends on subsequent agendizing action by the mayor, a councilmember(s) or city management.) [A former council under Mayor O’Neill removed the public’s right to agendize council items in the mid-1990s.]

On Feb. 2, Long Beach councilmembers voted to seek a report from Chief Luna “within 30 days on violent and quality-of-life crime in Long Beach with an overview of incidents and trends, an outline of current efforts and opportunities to address violence in highly-impacted neighborhoods and a plan of action to meet the need for safety in all of our communities.”

LB’s Police Chief directs LBPD actions but doesn’t set city policy or LBPD’s police level; a City Council majority does. The resulting memo doesn’t mention the word “gangs.” Or acknowledge policy actions by prior mayors/councils that erased roughly 20% of the city’s police level, including LBPD’s former field anti-gang unit. Or mention the September 2020 council vote (9-0) that defunded nearly 50 more officers.

The chief’s memo, titled “Strategies for Addressing Violent Crime” (directed to City Manager Tom Modica for the mayor/city council) also doesn’t mention LBPD’s practice (without council objection) of failing to publicly list shootings in LB’s official crime statistics (which LAPD does. LBPD fogs the shooting figure within general ‘aggravated assaults.)

Or the city’s failure (without council objection) to provide the crime stats that list serious (Part 1) crimes against persons and property by council districts (allowing quick comparison of conditions in various council districts,)

And it doesn’t acknowledge the impacts of prior and current mayor/council actions that erased over 200 officers LB taxpayers had but no longer have.

Long Beach City Councilmembers provide taxpayers with a significantly thinner police level than provided by city councils in Los Angeles, Signal Hill and Santa Monica.

The chief’s memo states in pertinent part:

“Currently total citywide violent crime is up 32 percent through January 31,2021. We believe the possible cause for these crime increases are related to the serious impacts on the criminal justice system and our community resulting from the COVID pandemic.

“Prisons and jails have released large numbers of inmates to reduce the risk of exposure; more repeat offenders are being released on bail; trials and other court proceedings have experienced significant delays; school closures and lack of programming has negatively impacted youth engagement; and, with a record number of gun sales in 2020, there are more guns on the street. The pandemic has also created an inability for the Police Department to engage our community in person, which has negatively impacted our community policing efforts.”

Regarding recent shootings, the chief’s memo states:

“In response to the recent shootings, the department has also implemented an additional strategy to be incorporated into our long -term violence prevention efforts. In February 2021, we reassigned employees away from their primary assignments to create a Coordinated Response Team (CRT). This temporary team is comprised of detectives, patrol officers, a divisional crime analyst, a public information officer and a forensic science specialist.

“The CRT meets daily to discuss strategies for impacting violent crime with a focus on gun violence, prohibited possessors, “ghost guns,” and the identification of drivers that are contributing to the increase in violent crime. The CRT is also responsible for assisting division commanders in conducting community engagement and neighborhood awareness related to our public safety efforts.

“The team has experienced success in arresting violent offenders prohibited from possessing firearms and the recovery of weapons found in their possession. This strategy includes working with our federal law enforcement partners including the FBI, the ATF and the U.S. Marshals. From January 1, 2021 to February 19, 2021, the city had 85 shootings citywide. Since implementing the CRT, we have seen an 81 percent decrease in firearm assaults. The proactive efforts of the CRT team have led to the arrest of 9 prohibited firearm possessors and the recovery of 13 firearms, 2 of which were ghost guns.

“In addition to responding to the increase in shootings citywide, we are focusing resources in the Washington Middle School neighborhood. In response to an increase in shootings in the first month of this year in that area, we implemented a Neighborhood Walks Pilot Program. This program, which is supported through NSS funding, allows officers assigned to specific beats to walk those beats allowing them to interact with people who are living and working in the area while additional officers answer calls for service.

Since the program’s implementation, there have been no reported shooting incidents in the area.”

The chief’s memo acknowledges Long Beach had 85 shootings from Jan. 1, 2021 to Feb. 19, 2021. The author notes that the shootings have disproportionately impacted mainly working class and historically disadvantaged neighborhoods, which he views as a chronic inequity, a “tale of two cities.”

Bill Pearl is the publisher of lbreport.com, a local, online news source since August 2000.

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Comments

Today I saw five police officers having a snack and conversing outside a liquor store in DT long beach for over 45 minutes. Maybe if these cops were a little bit more pro-active instead of re-active maybe they would prevent some of these shootings. We don't need more cops, the staffing levels are just fine! We just need the cops we have to do what they are over-paid to do "Patrol the city" not sit in the police cars watching Tick-Tock videos. For the one person about to say that maybe the 5 cops were debriefing a prior call, "NO" as I passed by they were talking about the fun they had drinking on 2nd st for St. Patrick's day. SMH

Aren’t you the same person who has complained about paying out on police lawsuits? What do you think will happen when they are proactive and find bad guys with guns? Well there’s a pretty strong chance an OIS will happen then followed by a civil lawsuit by the family.

I don't like paying out on police misconduct lawsuits either. But if you are saying its better the police DON'T do their law enforcement job they were hired to do in order to avoid lawsuits, then we may as well get rid of the Police.

Sure,
Yes, I have complained, because misconduct payouts should never happen. As you say "Paying out on police lawsuits" payouts are done when police officers commit misconduct or commit some type of corrupt act. If a police officer does his job correctly then a "payout" will not happen. Believe it or not, a police officer can be proactive and not commit misconduct. Unless you are saying the LBPD officers cant be proactive without committing misconduct? in that case I will agree with you, considering all the "payouts" the city does to cover up LBPD misconduct. Finding a bad guy with a gun does not necessarily mean an OIS will occur. Unless that officer is so afraid or out of control that he /she cant do his job correctly and in those cases they should not be cops. When cops do good things, good things happens.

Dude you have no idea what you’re talking about. Police do their jobs “correctly” every single day and still are sued with no misconduct taking place. You really should refrain from posting about lawsuits because you have no clue what you’re talking about.

Interesting but misguided point of view. Please tell me when your rational has happen? because I have yet to hear of a "payout" that has occurred when the police do their job "Correctly." Usually when the police are found to do their job "correctly" there is no "payout." Maybe the person who should "refrain" from remarks about lawsuit is you. Maybe you should think and or talk to your coworkers or family members who are probably cops before you stand up for the incompetent and corrupt cops who cost the LBC so much our tax dollars. Again "payouts" for police incompetence and misconduct should never happen. Also you don't need any special skill or knowledge to talk about police misconduct and their consequence, just a little common scene. You should try it.

I hope the city manager and my council woman is not buying into the police chief's memo. Would it be believable that "with a record number of gun sales in 2020, there are more guns on the street"??

People who buy guns from legit gun dealers are not the people you need to worry about being in possession. Its the street sales of stolen and unregistered guns. A documented record number of gun sales in 2020 means the people have lost faith that the police will protect them. Don't twist the logic behind this. Good people legally buying and arming themselves are not the problem.

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