Downtown Los Angeles header image
Los Angeles Police Department Memorial BadgeLos Angeles Police Department Badge


Perception vs. Reality

If one were to read the October 31, 2006 LA Times article, "Anxiety Builds as Crime Increases in Koreatown," one might believe the LAPD has been asleep at the wheel in Koreatown. The overly creative headline alone paints a distorted picture of crime in the entire community.

While it is true that some violent crimes have increased over last year, serious crime overall, or Part I crime, is actually down 12 percent. But that doesn't make for good headlines.

Of the twenty-nine reporting districts that make up Koreatown, 24 are actually showing a decrease in Part I crime compared to last year. More than half of the reporting districts show double-digit crime reductions. Crime has risen in just five districts, three in Wilshire Area and two in Rampart.

In the spirit of transparency, the Department gave the LA Times an itemized listing of crimes for these 29 reporting districts, but the reporters' plan to include a map showing crime increases and decreases, ended up on the newsroom floor. That's unfortunate because that graphic alone would have provided the needed balance to demonstrate the disconnect between the community's fear of crime and the actual incidence of crime. (The map that should have been included in the article is posted with this entry.)

It is quite evident from the article that some Koreatown residents believe their Community, particularly at night, is not safe. The LAPD clearly understands and appreciates that a person's perception is their reality, and with crime numbers actually down, the Department has to work even harder to reduce the fear of crime.

Just last week, West Bureau Deputy Chief Michael Hillmann and Captains from the Wilshire, Hollywood, and Rampart police stations met with the Western Corridor Business Watch group. For over three hours these police managers discussed crime trends and proposed strategies to reduce crime and the fear of crime.

An announcement and invite to the meeting was posted on the LAPD blog well in advance of the meeting. It was attended by the business community, local church members, residents and the Korean media. It would have been a good opportunity for the LA Times reporters to see how hard the LAPD is working to address the fear of crime in the community. It would also have been a good chance for them to interview the key managers involved in policing Koreatown. Such interviews were conspicuously absent from the article.

What precipitated the LA Times' article was a triple homicide at a Koreatown restaurant earlier this month. It certainly brought community fears to the surface, but ultimately it must be put in perspective. The police responded quickly, conducted a thorough investigation and identified the perpetrator within 24 hours. Prior to the triple homicide, the number of murders in Koreatown had increased by 3 from the prior year's 15.

So, here's the reality, there have been 533 fewer serious crimes this year in Koreatown, a 12% reduction. Koreatown is actually much safer than many communities. Even so, the LAPD will not be satisfied until the residents of Koreatown really believe they are safe . Now wouldn't that make a good headline!