The Los Angeles Police Department misclassified an estimated 14,000 serious assaults as minor offenses in a recent eight-year period, artificially lowering the city’s crime levels, a Los Angeles Times analysis found. With the incidents counted correctly, violent crime in the city was 7 percent higher than the LAPD reported from 2005 to fall 2012, and the number of serious assaults was 16 percent higher. When presented with the findings, top LAPD officials acknowledged the department makes errors and said they were working to improve the accuracy of crime data reporting. “We know this can have a corrosive effect on the public’s trust of our reporting,” said Assistant Chief Michel Moore. “That’s why we are committed to … eliminating as much of the error as possible.”
The misclassified cases often involved attacks that resulted in serious injuries, such as a 2009 incident in which a woman stabbed her boyfriend in the stomach with a 6-inch kitchen knife during a domestic dispute. Police arrested the woman, who later was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon. In the LAPD’s crime database, however, the attack was recorded as a “simple assault.” Because of this, the case and other misclassified incidents was left out of the department’s tally of violence in the city. The errors occurred during a time when the LAPD was reporting major drops in crime across the city. The Times analysis found the misclassified cases were not numerous enough to alter the overall downward trend.