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Crime-tracking data poorly traced, report says

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — The LAPD uses a number of predictive programs to focus crime-fighting efforts in certain neighborhoods and on specific chronic offenders by analyzing data,

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By Wave Newspapers

LOS ANGELES — Some Los Angeles Police Department programs that analyze data to predict where crimes may occur and identify “chronic offenders” need more oversight and have been inconsistently implemented, according to a report presented to the Police Commission March 12.

The LAPD uses a number of predictive programs to focus crime-fighting efforts in certain neighborhoods and on specific chronic offenders by analyzing data, including the LASER program and PrepPol. Both programs began in 2011 and have been criticized by some civil-rights advocates who claim they can lead to discrimination against minority groups.

In his report to the commission, LAPD Inspector General Mark Smith found that despite the fact the programs are data-driven, the information was sometimes poorly tracked and documented.

Smith said the primary finding of the report “unfortunately is that these programs lack some consistency in how they are being used throughout the department, how data was being tracked across the department.”

As to the Chronic Offender program, Smith’s report said “the format of the available data made it difficult, in some cases, to determine which activities were being conducted as the result of the program, and to assess the program’s overall impact.”

The commission did not take any direct action on the report, pending a two-week public comment period.

LASER is designed to inform officers where crimes are likely to occur and tracks ex-convicts and people they believe are most likely to commit crimes through technology, including cell phone trackers and license plate scanners.

By using data, including whether a person is a parolee or has ever been arrested, the LASER program generates a Chronic Offender Bulletin, which lists people the data says are most likely to commit a crime, even though they are not suspected in any specific crime.

The PredPol — short for “predictive policing” — program analyzes data about when and where crimes have occurred to identify “hot spots” in the city where certain types of crimes are more likely to be committed on a given day.

The Chronic Offender portion of the LASER program was suspended in August 2018, along with the use of the associated tracking database, according to the report. That same month, the commission held a public hearing on the programs and invited some of its harshest critics to give formal presentations on their opposition to them.

Although the LAPD has said race is not used directly in the data, members of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition argued at the August meeting and again this week that certain information such as parolee data and gang member identification allows the LAPD to racially profile using “proxy” data, because Latinos and blacks represent a high percentage of those tracked groups.

The end result, the groups argue, is the justification of using data to discriminate against minority groups. Smith’s report found that the overall racial makeup of individuals labeled in the chronic offender program are comparable to the demographics of those arrested for violent crimes in the city.

“What we are talking about is a language that reduces people to data-driven policing,” Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition told the commission. “It goes back to plantation capitalism, and remains plantation capitalism. People are numbers, people are statistics.”

The meeting came less than a year after LAPD Chief Michel Moore was sworn into office. During his career, Moore has been considered one of the department’s top experts on using data and analyzing crime statistics, but he said he welcomed the recommendations in the report.

“I’m thankful that this report has come today. Fundamentally, I believe that data-driven strategies improve policing, and that improves community safety,” Moore said. “What’s critical in that is that we recognize that the systems have to be thoughtful and they have to recognize that there’s a limit to what data can do.”

Moore said the department suspended the Chronic Offender program due to the public criticism, and in his view, there were “too many inconsistencies and raising too many concerns relative to civil rights advocates and members of the community that to let that continue unabated was counter to public trust.”

The report found that the majority of people identified as chronic offenders had few, if any, actual contacts with the police, who often reported that they attempted to locate the designated person but could not find them.

As to the predictive policing programs on locations and communities, the report found in most cases the amount of time spent in these areas appeared to be “relatively limited.” The report did note “a small proportion of events involving long durations or repeated visits. Based on the available information, it was generally not clear whether these visits were driven by the underlying program, or whether they were the result of other department activities or strategies.”

If the department were to again use a person-based strategy like the Chronic Offender program, “more rigorous parameters about the selection of people, as well as the tracking of data, should allow for a better assessment of these issues,” the report said.

For the location-based strategies, among the recommendations in the report is that the LAPD establish formal written guidelines that specify how areas are identified in the programs, when to conduct assessments of the zones, and what strategies and activities are to be taken at the locations.

The report also recommended that the LAPD develop a system for regular reporting of basic usage and outcome data on the programs to the commission and the public, look for opportunities to obtain independent evaluations and consider seeking community and commission input prior to the implementation of any new data-driven policing strategies or any significant revisions to the current data-driven programs.

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers

Bay Area

As Planned Robberies and Thefts Increase, Oakland Officials Grapple for Solutions

On Friday and Saturday evenings in Oakland, “roving caravans” targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail stores and pharmacies throughout Oakland. “At least two dozen businesses were impacted, mostly cannabis operations. Armed individuals exchanged gunfire with police and security guards.

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Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.
Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.

By Post Staff

Police and city officials are struggling to deal with a wave of organized smash-and-grab robberies, shootouts, home invasions, random drive-by shootings and muggings that swept across Bay Area cites over last weekend.

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong called the violent crime wave “unprecedented” and said his police force needs the help of elected officials to meet the challenge.

Armstrong said, “We will have tactical teams deployed throughout the city,” to increase safety over the holiday weekend.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the police chief’s boss, has been silent about how her office will step up.

In a video interview, Armstrong said, “What we’ve seen in Oakland is not much different than a lot of cities have seen in this Northern California region: roving robbery caravans, homicides and shootings.”

“We’re not going to tolerate this kind of activity in the City of Oakland. We are going to respond,” to be ready to deal with these roving gangs in the upcoming weekend, he said.

“These individuals who come to the city have been heavily armed, from all throughout the Bay Area,” Armstrong continued. “They are not just people from Oakland. They are groups of people coming to target communities. We will be prepared to address it. We will have extended staffing over the weekend to ensure there are enough resources to address the violent crime.”

After 11:00 p.m. roving caravans have targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail shops and pharmacies throughout the city of Oakland. At least two dozen businesses were impacted, most of them cannabis operations. Armed individuals were shooting at staff and others when they met resistance.

On Friday and Saturday evenings in Oakland, “roving caravans” targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail stores and pharmacies throughout Oakland. “At least two dozen businesses were impacted, mostly cannabis operations. Armed individuals exchanged gunfire with police and security guards.

Other organized groups of thieves targeted stores in San Francisco, Hayward and Walnut Creek.

On Sunday, robbers broke into a jewelry store in a Hayward mall, smashing glass cases and driving off with the valuables. In Walnut Creek, police urged businesses to close early after 80 thieves ransacked a Nordstrom last Saturday night.

In San Francisco, thieves broke into high-end stores in Union Square, including Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s, stealing merchandise worth thousands of dollars.

Oakland City Councilmembers responded quickly to Chief Armstrong’s call for help.

They said they have called a special meeting on December 7 to discuss the violence and underscored their commitment to stopping the violence.

“Absolutely, we are all concerned, and I can attest to that from all councilmembers including the mayor as well, too,” said District 2 Councilmember Sheng Thao, quoted on KGO.

Thao and District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb called for restoring the violence reduction program, Ceasefire, back to where it was before the pandemic.

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan said the Council is already responding to the post-pandemic crime wave that is surging in many cities. She pointed to new laws to increase funding for tracing and cracking down on illegal guns.

Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.

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Activism

Crime and Homelessness Reach an All-Time High

These depressing findings were recorded in a poll conducted by the Jobs and Housing Coalition (JHC) between October 16 and 18. They mark an all-time high in negative responses when Oakland residents are asked how they feel about the quality of their lives in Oakland and the direction of the city.

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The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.
The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.

Residents Want to Know What Can Be Done About It

By Paul Cobb

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with Greg McConnell who commissioned David Binder Research (President Obama’s polling firm) to find out the issues Oakland voters are concerned with.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Oakland residents feel that the quality of their lives has gotten worse over the past few years. Sixty-three percent (63%) feel that Oakland is headed in the wrong direction.

Greg McConnell

Greg McConnell

These depressing findings were recorded in a poll conducted by the Jobs and Housing Coalition (JHC) between October 16 and 18. They mark an all-time high in negative responses when Oakland residents are asked how they feel about the quality of their lives in Oakland and the direction of the city.

Negative opinion has reached a new high over the last 10 years according to David Binder Research.

This trend has been steadily rising since 2015, however, the trend erupted in a 10-point leap in negative responses – from 53% to 63% – since last June.

The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.

David Binder

“It would be foolish to overlook the obvious,” said Greg McConnell, president and CEO of JHC. “People believe their quality of life is sinking, and the city is headed in the wrong direction. We cannot not ignore those feelings or dress them up to make them go away. So, our options are either to surrender the city to the current trend of negativity or turn things around.”

The question now, asked McConnell, is how do we turn things around? “The last thing we need are big speeches and proclamations. You fix big problems by focusing on the small parts. My recommendation is to get government working more effectively.”

“Oakland must start doing the small things well,” explained McConnell. “Take the homeless crisis for example. This problem will not be solved with lofty speeches. Addressing mental health and addiction issues must be done one day and one issue at a time. No one gets sober overnight. They build one day on another until they have 24 hours, then 30 days, then years.”

The same is true with shelter for the unhoused. Oakland will not build thousands of housing units in a day. They chip away at the problem by building new units every day until we have a sufficient supply. “Doing little things well will impact the big things greatly,” McConnell continued.

“There will always be big political decisions like whether to fund or defund police, but to make a city better, it’s what we do every day that will make a difference and improve life in Oakland”, said McConnell. “If we operate government like government is supposed to operate and if government focuses on small things day by day, resident negativity, depression, and pessimism will fade away.”

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Bay Area

OPINION: Is Travis Scott to Blame for Astroworld?

Festival seating is when the entire venue becomes a mosh pit. It’s a concert where there are no assigned seats, making it a Darwinian every-person-for-himself, go-at-your-own-risk event. The nightmarish, mad rush that occurred at NRG Park at Travis Scott’s hip-hop Astroworld on November 5 was a foreseen possibility, especially since the artist’s encouraging a crowd surge is part of his act.

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Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.
Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.

By Emil Guillermo

I grew up in the Bay Area and attended “Days on the Green” at the Coliseum. But I started going to rock concerts in earnest when I was a teenager in Houston. I had taken a gap year from college and was the all-night DJ on the biggest rock station in town. Whenever I saw “festival seating” on a ticket, I knew it was more than just a warning, but an invitation to disaster.

Festival seating is when the entire venue becomes a mosh pit. It’s a concert where there are no assigned seats, making it a Darwinian every-person-for-himself, go-at-your-own-risk event. The nightmarish, mad rush that occurred at NRG Park at Travis Scott’s hip-hop Astroworld on November 5 was a foreseen possibility, especially since the artist’s encouraging a crowd surge is part of his act.

In Houston, the crowd was so packed, witnesses described how they couldn’t move. Then someone would fall, and the domino pile would begin.

For some, it became an “I can’t breathe moment.”

Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.

He didn’t expect to die in the crush of people as he tried to save his fiancé from being trampled.

“She was stomped on, hit, punched, horrendous things were happening to her that I don’t want to mention,” said Basil Mirza Baig, Baig’s brother, who was also at the concert. “My brother was trying to save her, and he did, he saved her, and it cost him his life.”

At this time no precise cause of death is given. But the family said it was from cardiac arrest suffered from the crush of people.

The fiancé survived. But Mirza, speaking at Baig’s funeral on Sunday wants answers.

“My brother was laying on the ground. They were chanting to stop the event. Nobody stopped the event,” Mirza said in an interview with Dallas news station WFAA. “In this horrendous event, people that were in it (who) took part in this event, Travis Scott’s team, the NRG team, everybody who was associated with this should be held accountable for the lives that were lost today. We’re grieving. We’re in pain.”

Mirza wants answers, not a Tweet, but real answers from Scott.

“He could stop a show for his shoe, but he couldn’t stop the show for people?” Mirza asked. Reports say Scott performed for at least another 30 minutes after an emergency had been declared. “It was upsetting and sad seeing people thrown left and right, stop, girls, guys, everybody, little kids,” Mirza described the scene. “This is not how you do it. You go to a concert to have fun. You don’t go to a concert to die.”

Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. This is not the first time for Scott, who has faced criminal charges related to inciting concert crowds in Arkansas in 2018 (guilty, disorderly conduct), and Chicago in 2015 (guilty, misdemeanor reckless conduct).

Live Nation, too, should have known better. When the word “festival” is on the ticket, there are no seats, forcing crowds to compete for a stage view, and then a fun night becomes Darwinian, the survival of the fittest.

That’s not entertainment.

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