Paso Robles claims the computer did it
February 28, 2012
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
Paso Robles city officials have repeatedly provided conflicting crime statistics and falsified documents in an apparent attempt to bolster claims the city’s crime rate is down.
While Police Chief Lisa Solomon continues her claim that crime has been reduced under her leadership, she now admits that crime statistics she provided CalCoastNews three weeks ago were inaccurate.
And the city’s contract attorney, Iris Ping Yang, is alternately blaming a city computer, the state Department of Justice (DOJ) and unintentional human error for the string of factual discrepancies.
Solomon, faced with questions about the accuracy of data she has been providing CalCoastNews and other local media, provided a new set of numbers this week.
Crime statistics provided earlier this month by her department appeared to demonstrate that overall crime rates were relatively high before she became chief — and significantly lower after she became the city’s top cop. That information spanned the period from 2002 to 2011 and created the appearance that crime is down 11.7 percent under her watch.
A CalCoastNews story reported that Uniform Crime Report (UCR) numbers Solomon said she delivered to the Department of Justice and the FBI did not match data reported by city officials to the DOJ. Yang blamed a new computer system for some of the problems, and indicted the DOJ for not properly inputting audited information sent them years ago by Paso Robles police.
In an email, Yang said police department staff had located the “original hard copies” of the UCRs the police department had sent the DOJ, and included those in an attachment.
“In order to obtain the most accurate information, Chief Solomon had records personnel retrieve the original hard copies from 2002 to 2011, which are enclosed pursuant to your request,” Yang wrote in the email.
However, those “hard copy” forms contain numerous discrepancies, both in crime data and in standard reporting information. On several, one being a 2002 crime report, Solomon is listed as chief even though she was not made chief until 2007. In addition, the individual whose name appears as author of several of the reports did not even work for the department during the year the report was sent to the DOJ.
Yang explained the errors by reversing her original claim that the documents were “hard copies,” now asserting that a computer scrambled data when forms were retrieved.
Terry Francke, the director of CalAware and an authority on the freedom of information laws, said that it is a crime to falsify public records and for public officials to knowingly lie in emails.
“Government code Section 6200 makes it a crime to falsify public records,” Francke said. “If it is the official charged with custody of that record falsifies it, it is a felony, if it is done by someone else, it is a misdemeanor. It is also a misdemeanor for a public official to make a statement in writing that he or she knows is false.”
If Solomon used data she knew to be inaccurate to apply for federal or state monies, the procurement could also result in criminal prosecution.
Some errors CalCoastNews reported originally, such as large discrepancies in the number of burglaries reported, have now been corrected by city officials. The numbers now mirror those reported to the DOJ. Still, in other years, crime totals have veered even further from what the DOJ said the city reported.
For example, Solomon claimed three weeks ago that in 2006, one year before she became chief, there were a total of 1,092 crimes in Paso Robles, just two more than the DOJ’s report of 1,090. Today she insists that number is actually 1,127.