Thursday, December 17, 2009

Can Dallas really trust declining crime statistics?

Falling crime statistics in Dallas are great, editorialized the Morning News ("Crime statistics must be accurate," Dec. 16), but only if the public may have confidence that police aren't cooking the books:

Specifically, there's reason to suspect that reporting procedures adopted by the department in 2007 undercount violent crime. And the questions raised are serious enough to warrant an independent external audit or a formal FBI review of Dallas' crime-reporting procedures.

In a one-week sample of cases from this summer, The News' review estimated that the number of aggravated assault cases than Dallas police recorded for the FBI should be at least 50 percent higher. Instead, many attacks were classified as lesser offenses because the 2007 policy change generally required that assaults involving bottles, bricks, pipes and other dangerous objects not be classified as aggravated unless serious injury occurred.

Aggravated assaults make up more than one-third of the city's reported violent crime, so as the numbers drop in that category, the overall violent crime rate is affected.

And aggravated assaults aren't the only crime category for which the reporting process has been questioned. Morning News reporters Steve Thompson and Tanya Eiserer previously reported discrepancies in the city's counting of auto, home and business burglaries.

These are not scientific studies, but they raise legitimate questions about whether the city is making as much progress on fighting crime as the statistics indicate.

Columnist James Ragland says Dallas is looking at crime data through rose colored glasses. See also commentary from the DA Association's user forum regarding manipulation of crime stats.


Anonymous said...

Ummm, no.

Anonymous said...

There's really crime in Dallas County? I thought they just made up stuff to charge innocent people with!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's a big enough town, 4:51, for there to be a little of both.

Tim said...

If aggravated assault cases are being reclassified, then shouldn't the data show an upsurge in those lesser charges?

Faceless Man said...

Wlecome to uniform crime reporting 101 folks.

Mike Howard said...

One of my favorite (among many) quotes from HBO's The Wire... "making robberies into larcenies, making rapes juke the stats and majors become colonels."

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that (and this was explained to me by a police officer) that under new reporting practices....a situation where multiple victims are involved is just counted as one (ie. 3 people robbed are counted as 1 robbery). While it doesn't sound accurate to me.....these results are what funding is based on .....and we need all the help we can get!!!

Anonymous said...

Let's see now. Aggrivated assault recorded in the statistics so the Police can get their budget funded. After all, no crime, no need for police - right? OK now the DA pleas the aggrivated assault down to a misdemeanor and the sentence is probated. That means the DA has a win and gets his budget approved. Oh yea, the probation department gets more funding and of course, the prison budget is way too high already so who cares about padding that?

What a system!!