Stephen Ellison

County Audit Shows Pittsburg Police Misclassified Crimes

An audit done by Contra Costa County law enforcement personnel revealed that Pittsburg police misclassified crimes in reports written last year, according to a report released Monday.

Although it did not account for more than 1 percent of the department's crime reports in 2015, 103 of 204 reports reviewed in the audit improperly classified actual crimes as "suspicious circumstances."

The Contra Costa County District Attorney's and Sheriff's offices conducted the audit at the request of Pittsburg police in May to determine if the reports were consistent with FBI crime reporting procedures.

FBI publishes an annual report of crime based on data provided by law enforcement agencies under certain guidelines, tracking crimes as either Part I offenses - such as murder, rape and assault - or less serious Part II crimes.

It was concluded that 103 of the 204 instances of purported "suspicious circumstances" found in 2015 Pittsburg police reports fit under those two categories, according to a report on an audit's findings addressed to Pittsburg police Chief Brian Addington.

Forty should have been classified as serious Part I crimes, and the remaining 63 as Part II crimes, according to the report.

In all but two of the reports, the actual crime was listed as a possible crime.

One example included as an attachment to the three-page report was a police report from August 2015 describing a person waiting in his vehicle in a parking lot who was robbed of $300 at gunpoint.

Although this incident was listed as a "possible" robbery in one section, it was coded as "suspicious circumstances" in another.

But the report on the audit, signed by District Attorney Mark Peterson and Sheriff-Coroner David Livingston, stopped short of calling it deception.

The department produced nearly 10,000 crime reports during 2015, according to the audit report. If the 103 misclassified crimes were properly reported, there would have apparently been no more than a 1 percent difference in the city's reported crime rate.

"This fact clearly undermines the allegation that the police department deliberately falsified or misclassified crimes," the report stated.

The report added that Pittsburg's crime rate was low for a city of its size.

Regardless, county law enforcement officials recommended in the report that the department provide personnel with updated crime report training and institute report writing policies "that reflect current industry standards."

Pittsburg police officials did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the audit's findings.

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