Living with Increased Violence in the LBC (Part 2 of 2)
Greggory Moore (Long Beach Post) | October 5, 2012
It can’t quite be called “ironic” that there were two gun crimes that we know of (one robbery, one shooting) in the four days since Part 1 of this story was published, because one can hardly call such incidents unexpected in our current milieu. Though 2011 had the lowest homicide rate in the city’s history, at the end of this past July, the Press-Telegram reported that the murder rate had spiked 54 percent. The shooting rate had increased 38 percent. And since September 1 alone, there have been six murders and countless shots-fired calls within city limits.
However complicated the reasons, it’s a simple fact that violence—gun violence in particular—is up in Long Beach.
It’s a trend that comes as the Long Beach Police Department attempts to cope with significant cuts. Just how significant was outlined by Chief Jim McDonnell during the August 14 city council discussion of the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget, which included a variety of cuts to an already understaffed and underfunded force.
“[… E]ach of these cuts will hurt,” he told the council. “After 10 years of reductions, each proposed cut will result in some amount of service degradation. Over the years this department evolved into a highly effective team of sworn and civilian staff who performed a full range of police services. That structure has been decimated by cuts […].”
A good indication of the extent of that decimation can be seen from a statistic he quoted: had the FY2013 gone into effect as proposed, LBPD staffing levels would have been reduced by 19.7 percent in just two years. One-time funds were eventually used to restore some gang-enforcement positions and allow for overtime; however, as passed, the cumulative staff reductions between FY2013 and FY2010 budgets still remain in the 17-percent range.
Though a 40-cadet police academy was included in the FY2013 budget for the first time since 2009, the Department is still bleeding more than it is replacing. LBPD currently has about 800 staff, down from its 2008 high of 1,020 budgeted officers, a decrease that leaves Long Beach with one of the lowest police-to-population ratios for a high-crime city.
Tags: gun violence, Long beach police department, staff reduction