Just a Thought – Dear Göran

Finger pointing on tablet pc, charts concept

Finger pointing on tablet pc, charts concept

It’s about those crime stats.

While I understand that the Financial Benchmark Study was undertaken to provide information to help the City Council make decisions, the timing was a little too good. As the Chair of the Financial Advisory Committee, your decision to present data that makes it look as if our crime problems are much worse than they are makes me deeply uncomfortable. As a candidate for City Council, you put out a press release the next day offering how you ‘d be able to support our police in this fight against encroaching crime.

What it looks like to me – and I have spent several weeks looking at it – is that you chose to create a problem that you could then offer to solve.

The whole idea of ‘benchmarking’ seems like another flavor of ‘stakeholders.’ It’s an administrative fashion show that accomplishes nothing.

Another member of the Finance Advisor Committee offered to me that the timing of the study was simply unpredictable, and there was no way to know it would arrive in front of the council during the campaign. Sorry, but I don’t buy it. There has not been a moment of your council run that has not been researched with precision and choreographed to the millimeter. Nothing wrong with that – I appreciate attention to detail. That is what an effective campaign does.

I do understand how statistics work – I passed the class – I know that data is created and can be sculpted to say whatever we want it to. The old Twain quote about about “Lies, damned lies and statistics” still gets a laugh because it’s true.

The mathematical mambo that extrapolated our crime rate from an actual 2.3 up to 4.6  – because adding in statistical population to average our our relationship with cities like Monterey and Brea meant averaging up the crime numbers – has people feeling scared.

In a conversation with Police Chief Bixby, he reinforced what he had said at the council meeting where the report was reviewed. “Comparing us to cities located closer, with more comparable populations, like Glendale or Inglewood,  would give a much better picture of what our crime rate really is. Why they chose to do it this way, I don’t know. It makes the police department look pretty incompetent. And I don’t think we are.”

I don’t think your analysis is is any way lacking mathematically, but to many, it’s an abstraction. People who don’t speak math (and that is the majority of the population) do read headlines. They often don’t take the time to fully digest and understand the text under the headline. What you’ve done is to create a report that said something contentious, then popped out some public relations that not only supports your contention, but offers the remedy.

In politics, ethics are optional. The object of the game is to win. In journalism, ethics are the object of the game. For the record, Crossroads did not run the press release, but we did pull a quote from it as part of an article about the Financial Benchmark report. Two other people involved in the study were also quoted in the article.

The official CCPD “Police Blotter” was dropped from Culver City Crossroads years ago because – on the other side of the spectrum from the benchmark study – it leaves people with the impression that we have far less crime than we really have.

If people really want to know about local crimes, I recommend signing up for the CCPD Nixle. Crossroads tends not to cover the car chases and muggings because that’s not news that’s going to make someone feel informed or connected, or inspire them to get involved.

In a conversation with another candidate several months ago, the problem of low voter turnout was viewed as a mixed blessing. The only thing that will really drive people to the polls, he said, would be a major local problem. And we are happy not to have any.

While housing issues and jet noise are the problems that I hear being discussed in regard to the election, they are only a crisis for those directly affected. The rest of the voters – those who do not attend the Lutheran Church or live up the street from the school complex – are looking at our candidates with different lenses.

The parking issues on one street are a great deal of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and I think it’s beyond tedious that so much paper has been wasted on it.

But after thinking about these crime stats for quite some time, it still bothers me. I thought it might be statistically significant.


Judith Martin-Straw





The Actors' Gang

1 Comment

  1. I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say here, other than that the parking on that one block of Farragut is taking up too much bandwidth in this election cycle. While I agree with you there, it’s pretty clear that Goran neither started nor amplified all that nonsense in any substantive manner.
    If you’re saying that the chief disagrees with a report that indicates higher crime than other reports indicate, well, that’s pretty much what the chief would be expected to say. I think our PD does a fine job. I also hear of burglaries, car thefts, etc. etc., so I know it ain’t exactly Mayberry here either. As far as a press release, candidates are going to do that timed with current/local events as they occur; pretty standard stuff. I don’t see the red flag you’re trying to hoist here at all.

    For the record, I’ve endorsed Goran, and Meghan Sahli-Wells; I know they’ll both do a great job on council representing our fair city.

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