The answer is both, according to a new analysis by WeHo by the Numbers that takes into account both the crime rate and the seriousness of the crimes. The analysis concludes that crime rose in the past year but was still lower than it was five years earlier.
The analysis starts with the crime rate, which is the number of reported Part 1 crimes divided by the city’s population. Part 1 crimes include homicide, rape, aggravated assault, armed robbery, strong-arm robbery, residential burglary, commercial burglary, grand theft, vehicle burglary, petty theft, grand theft auto and arson.
The crime rate increased 8% in the just-finished fiscal year (July 2015 to June 2016) versus the prior year. Despite that increase, the crime rate was still 9% lower than it had been five years earlier. That fall in the crime rate came from a 5% cut in the number of crimes and a 4% increase in the city’s population.
The analysis then tests whether the seriousness of reported crimes has changed over time. For example, even with a flat crime rate, crime would be less serious if there more petty thefts but fewer armed robberies.
The challenge is quantifying seriousness. It requires value judgments about how much worse one crime is than another. The analysis uses the length of a potential prison sentence for each crime as a proxy for its seriousness. More about that part of the analysis can be found in the WeHo by the Numbers report If we adjust for the seriousness of crimes, is crime up or down in West Hollywood?
The results show that the seriousness of crime was virtually unchanged in the last year. Compared to five years ago, it dropped 13%.
The crime rate and seriousness numbers are then combined into one measure of the overall “severity” of crime in West Hollywood. According to that measure, crime was up 6% in the last year but down 20% over a five-year period (FY2011 to FY2016).
So one could accurately say that “crime is up” or that “crime is down” depending on the timeframe one chooses for the comparison.