Read the L.A. Weekly news story "Chief Beck's Hit-and-Run Crisis."
In January, Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino asked LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to deliver a report that shows how the police department is addressing L.A.'s major hit-and-run problem. That request came after L.A. Weekly revealed that a hit-and-run epidemic is gripping the city.
Now Beck has delivered the report, and critics and experts have told the Weekly that they are not impressed. L.A. police commissioners essentially gave Beck a pass when they reviewed the report a week ago. The big question now is, with lives on the line, will Buscaino raise hell or follow the lead of the politically appointed commissioners?
As a member of the City Council's public safety committee, Buscaino, a former police officer, probably will meet with Beck and LAPD brass at a committee meeting at City Hall in late July or early August. He'll have plenty of time between now and then to come up with tough questions, if he chooses to go that route.
Critics and experts have told the Weekly that Beck massaged statistics, offered recommendations that don't mean a whole lot, and never got to the root of what causes hit-and-runs.
Sara Solnick, a University of Vermont professor and co-author of groundbreaking work on hit-and-runs, says the LAPD is "not very sophisticated in their data analysis."
Richard Tay, a leading expert on hit-and-runs and chairman of Road Safety Management at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, says that since the LAPD report fails to address why people flee, who is believed to flee, and other key hit-and-run characteristics, the department has no real idea where and how to "target" their resources.
Last week, police commissioner Rafael Bernardino Jr., a trial lawyer, told Beck he did "a good job of dispelling the myth that Los Angeles is the hit-and-run capital of the world."
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But public relations wasn't the point of the report, as Buscaino knows. With L.A. facing 20,000 hit-and-runs annually, and with hit-and-run drivers killing or badly maiming about 22 bicyclists, 40 motorists and 92 pedestrians each year, much more is on the line.
Will Buscaino pat Beck on the back, like Bernardino, or put the chief's feet to the fire? Victims of hit-and-runs will find out in a few weeks.
Read the L.A. Weekly cover story "L.A.'s Bloody Hit-and-Run Epidemic."