Is LAPD Chief Charlie Beck More About Spin Than Solving Hit-and-Run Epidemic?

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Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM
click to enlarge LAPD Chief Charlie Beck
  • LAPD Chief Charlie Beck

The Los Angeles Police Commission will receive a long-awaited report from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday morning about L.A.'s serious hit-and-run epidemic. Judging from a copy of that report, it looks as if Beck is more interested in repairing public relations damage than solving a major public safety problem.

"The report is all spin to get around the elephant in the room," says Don Rosenberg, an L.A. resident whose son was killed by an unlicensed driver and has been keeping close tabs on the LAPD's response to the hit-and-run crisis. "They don't have a good story on hit and runs, and tried to come up with something else."

L.A. Weekly first exposed the controversy in the widely read 2012 cover story "L.A.'s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic," which caught the attention of L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino and California State Assemblyman Mike Gatto.

In December, former Weekly staff writer Simone Wilson reported that there "is no LAPD task force or organized city effort to address the problem, yet the numbers are mind-boggling. About 20,000 hit-and-run crashes, from fender benders to multiple fatalities, are recorded by the Los Angeles Police Department each year.

"That's huge, even in a city of 3.8 million people. In the United States, 11 percent of vehicle collisions are hit-and-runs. But in Los Angeles, L.A. Weekly has learned, an incredible 48 percent of crashes were hit-and-runs in 2009, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available. According to data collected by the state, some 4,000 hit-and-run crashes a year inside L.A. city limits, including cases handled by LAPD, California Highway Patrol and the L.A. County Sheriff, resulted in injury and/or death. Of those, according to a federal study, about 100 pedestrians died; the number of motorists and bicyclists who die would push that toll even higher."

In January, Councilman Buscaino asked the LAPD to come up with a report to explain what efforts the police were taking to curtail hit and runs.

But that report, signed by Beck, focuses largely on attempting to pick apart the Weekly's cover story, with some mention of what the police are actually doing to combat hit and runs such as holding press conferences and community meetings to alert the public and solicit help in apprehending an individual.

"The councilman is saying we have too many hit and runs. What are you doing about it?" says Rosenberg. "And Beck goes into something else and tries to massage statistics."

Buscaino was unable to comment before the Weekly's deadline.

But Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who represents neighborhoods in L.A. and has been pushing forward a hit-and-run law to extend the statue of limitations for such an offense, tells the Weekly that "more needs to be done" to solve L.A.'s hit-and-run crisis and hopes that Beck will take an "all-hands-on-deck approach" to solve it.

Gatto's office read the LAPD report. After coming up with a questionable statistical formula, Beck's findings state that L.A.'s hit-and-run rate was "comparable to other metropolitan cities in the nation." Gatto says that "runs contrary to what I hear from my constituents."

Rosenberg adds, "They totally ignored public safety" in the report.

What will L.A. police commissioners say?

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Patrick Range McDonald on Twitter at @PRMcDonald.

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