It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that Los Angeles, a city of automobiles, is experiencing a horrific epidemic of hit and runs that only seem to get more and more appalling.
Local news organizations are slowly getting better at covering collisions where the driver has fled. LA Weekly, in print and online, has gone above and beyond by actively calling out the LAPD and city government to address the problem, via their coverage, which paginates for dozens of incident reports and calls for action. On Thursday, July 24, LACBC posted an article describing that the LAPD would be presenting their report to the LA City Hall Public Safety Committee the next morning along with proposals for improving the situation. Hooray!
Unfortunately, the report was deeply flawed in how the LAPD determined their supporting statistics from the available data. This centered around framing the report on hit and run crimes vs miles traveled. The standard metric is incidents per capita. In our opinion, the LAPD’s choice suggests that the priority of the LAPD is to keep vehicles moving unhindered rather than create a safe environment for residents. It also skews the statistics, relative to other cities nationwide, to give the appearance of fewer hit and runs because of the unusually high number of miles locals travel due to sprawl.
It should seem self evident; however the report and presentation by the LAPD is just confusing enough for someone not paying close attention to believe that it’s being taken seriously. It’s not. Or as the LA Weekly put it:
In June, LAPD chief Charlie Beck released a controversial hit-and-run report that critics thought was more about public relations damage control on the heels of the Weekly expose than addressing the concerns of Buscaino and bicycling advocates.
One of the primary problems in this situation is the lack of education, structure and awareness within the LAPD and the CA Highway Patrol about exactly what the laws are. The laws are awful, but there isn’t education in place to communicate to officers whatever the current state of those laws are. Don Ward in his 2 minutes was also able to bring up that when collision occur that police officers discourage cyclists from filing a report, telling them that “nothing will come of it” or that it will be long, complicated, expensive and possibly pointless. They then fail to investigate the reports which are filed and for statistical purposes only count collisions that result in something more serious than “property damage.”
While we arrived as an organized group ride comprised of people who have experience with public speaking, I was particularly moved by the blonde woman who attended alone to speak of her experience as a hit and run victim; her primary objection was that the public, civic and state discourse cannot be improved until we remove the term ‘accident’ from the hit and run conversation. She was clearly nervous to be speaking in such a formal situation, but presented a compelling case that was well received by 12th District L.A. Councilman Mitch Englander, chair of the public safety committee.
Nona Varnado with contributor Charles Dandino.