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Critics Say L.A. Police Exaggerate 'Surge' of Violence Reports

Robbery, burglary and theft are down in Los Angeles compared to 2019, but police have indicated those types of crimes are rising, citing incidents involving “smash-and-grab” shoplifters who descended on high-end shopping districts at the height of the holiday shopping season. Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore described the incidents as a wave of “violent and dangerous crimes.” He said, “The rash of these smash-and-grab type crimes have placed community members and store employees in significant danger due to the violence that’s associated with them.” The retail crimes have prompted city officials to renew support for the police department, including backing a 12 percent budget increase.

Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission on Dec. 7 that the crimes were part of a larger "surge" of violence that was "expanding," and he said the LAPD and commission need to "draw particular focus and laser attention to it and amplify it. Because that's the only way we get results." California Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged $300 million to combat retail theft. Critics say the smash-and-grab incidents, while alarming, have been happening for at least the better part of a decade. They argue the incidents are being used to scare residents, lobby for officer raises and decry justice reform. "We’re not saying crime doesn’t exist,” said Ricci Sergienko of the People’s City Council, a coalition of social and climate justice organizations. “We’re just saying the cops’ own statistics don’t match their narrative.” Journalism Prof. Gabriel Kahn of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism compared robbery and theft in November to all the months since 2015 and found many were worse, some far worse. He found that since 2015, 10 months have had more reports of theft than November 2021. He also found that robberies have been higher in the months between January 2015 and the end of 2019 than in both 2020 and 2021.


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