How a police department reports their annual crime statistics isn’t only important for basic record keeping, but can play a role in how safe a community feels. For instance, if you find your city has experienced a 2% drop in violent crime over the past year, you may feel safer walking at night, as opposed to if it had grown 2%. But, what if those statistics were being fudged by the police?
The Journal-Sentinel is asking that same question as an investigation into the Milwaukee Police Department has found that assaults are being miscategorized to seem less serious. It’s unclear whether the mistakes are intentional or merely bad police work, but there is little doubt that the numbers are misleading.
The main issue seems to be that police are categorizing hundreds of cases as “simple assaults” that should be classified as more serious aggravated assaults. Assaults involving weapons, police officers, and serious injuries are being written off as simple assaults when they are reported to the feds for annual crime data gathering.
From the Journal-Sentinel:
In May, a Journal Sentinel investigation found more than 500 serious assaults that were misclassified by the department as lesser offenses from early 2009 through February. The review identified an additional 800 cases that follow the same pattern but couldn’t be verified with available public records. Copies of those incident reports have been sought from police through an open records request.
An analysis of the department’s recently released March crime data found more than 30 additional cases that follow the pattern of underreporting. The new misreported assaults also include felony child abuse cases and misdemeanor battery cases in which victims were threatened or injured with dangerous weapons.
So, how does this affect anything? Every year police agencies report their data to the FBI for compilation in the Uniform Crime Report. This report is considered the end-all for crime statistics and is used to measure crime rates across the country. By reporting serious assaults as simple assaults (which are not submitted to the FBI), a city can appear to have fewer violent crimes than it actually has.
“The Journal Sentinel found enough misreported cases in 2011 alone that violent crime would have increased 1.1% instead of falling 2.3% from the reported 2010 figures, which had their own errors.”
Mike Crivello, president of the local police union puts it in perspective, “We must have true and correct crime rate figures. We all want crime to be down, but not at the price of integrity.”
If police officers, or those responsible for reporting statistics, would mislead the federal government on crime in the city, would they also be willing to mislead people accused of criminal offenses?
If you are accused of a crime, it can feel like no one is on your side, and it can be difficult to know who to trust. Fortunately, a criminal defense attorney can be your partner during this difficult time.
Contact our offices today to discuss the case against you and what can be done to minimize the impact it has on your life.