In February 2013, someone broke into a newly renovated house in South Los Angeles, spray-painted walls and made off with a new stove and water heater worth $1,400. LAPD officers classified the crime as a burglary because it involved forced entry and stolen property.
Two days later, LAPD records show a detective downgraded the case from burglary to vandalism — a minor crime not included in the city’s crime statistics.
His report does not indicate anything was stolen.
Rick Sylvester, of the property management company that owned the house, said the appliances were stolen and never recovered.
“I have no idea what their rationale could be,” Sylvester said of the LAPD’s decision. “I’m surprised. It’s bothersome.”
LAPD officials declined to discuss the case.
In 2012, LAPD investigators moved more than 2,000 cases from serious crime categories down to minor ones. Police officials said the revisions — called reclassifications — are made when detectives determine that the initial account of an incident was inaccurate.
Deputy Chief Rick Jacobs said the department closely tracks reclassifications to guard against abuse.
“It would be naive of us to think there isn’t a mistake made,” Jacobs said. “We try to do the best we can.”
Department officials said they would not provide records on reclassified cases, saying the documents are confidential.
The Times obtained reports for a dozen such cases from the year ending Sept. 30, 2013. A review found that half appeared to have been improperly downgraded.
In one of those cases, someone used a cinder block to break off a door knob to a business but was unable to gain entry. The LAPD initially called it attempted burglary, but later reclassified it as vandalism. FBI rules say such an incident should be classified as burglary.