Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Crime is Down; Let's Celebrate - RIGHT

Did you catch the latest numbers released today showing crime is down in San Diego? If you missed them don't fret, they were like everything else in this city; baloney. As with any statistic it is all in what and how the information is compiled. I was writing my rant in my pea brain today as I drove home in traffic, when I received the below press release from the SDPOA. I think this release hit a grand slam explaining the flaws with the results of the Uniform Crime Report Data and the claim of record low crime in San Diego.

For Immediate Release
Uniform Crime Report Data Not True Indicator of Crime in San Diego
Selective Inclusion of Crime Details Results in Deceptively Low Statistics

San Diego, CA – January 27, 2010 – The San Diego Police Officers Association, Inc. (SDPOA) today urges restraint over celebrating today’s crime statistics announcement by the City of San Diego and issued the following statement from Brian R. Marvel, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association:

“The SDPOA is always proud of the men and women who wear the uniform and play such a key role in keeping San Diegans safe. Any decrease in crime rate is a commendable event; however, we believe that it is a disservice to citizens to not provide a full and complete picture of actual crime statistics.

When it comes to reviewing crime rate statistics, as is the case with any data, it is important to remember that the manner of calculating results can be more telling than the actual results.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report (UCR) that produced today’s crime data released by the City of San Diego does not fully reflect actual crime rate for San Diego. The UCR qualifies its own rankings by saying that the data does not provide insight into many variables and can ‘lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses.’ The UCR openly states that the rankings are a quick overview and can create misleading perceptions about actual crime rate.

For example, the report states that the number of rapes is down, but that only constitutes one of 17 sex crimes reported to the police department. The UCR does not take into account date rape by drugs, same sex rape and spousal rape, to name a few.

All victims of crimes deserve to have their crimes identified and reported yet the UCR reporting process does not reflect all crime data from a major municipality like San Diego. As a result, incomplete data is often used to report on increases or decreases in the crime rate.

The SDPOA would like to work to develop a crime data analysis system that provides the public with an accurate assessment of San Diego’s actual crime rate. The information provided by the Uniform Crime Report could be one component of such a comprehensive analysis; however, it should not be the sole data source for reporting on the current crime rate in America’s Finest City.”

The Uniform Crime Report cautions agencies from relying exclusively on UCR data as the sole indicator of crime in their area. The advisory states, in part; “These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city county, state, region or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.

About the San Diego Police Officers Association
 The San Diego Police Officers Association (SDPOA) is the only recognized bargaining unit for the over 1,800 members of the San Diego Police Department. The SDPOA was established in 1912 and incorporated in 1953 to assist San Diego police officers in issues related to wages, hours and working conditions. The SDPOA also aids members and their families in sickness, distress and death, and strives to improve social relations and welfare among the members. The San Diego Police Officers Association members include over 98% of the San Diego Police force and represent all ranks within the department, including the Chief of Police.

Reality is, "REPORTED" crime is down; not crime itself. Citizens calling to report crimes are often directed to the telephone report unit, only to find themselves waiting extended periods of time (hours turn into days) and often are not following through on their reporting out of frustration due to the long wait or lack of follow through (missed call backs or no call back at all). Many more citizens are simply not even making the effort to report their crimes because they believe, and rightly so, that nothing will come of the report. More alarming is the number of crimes being "Maytag-ed" by officers on a routine basis. Trying to keep up with calls for service and remain free for priority calls, which are up and more violent than in the past, officers are finding excuses for not completing crime reports in all instances.
The other statistic I found troubling is the claim response times remained low for the three highest priority calls. Officers responded to over 660,000 calls for service, with the severity of calls increasing from the prior year. Officers responded to more calls with the potential for violence and at the same time fielded fewer officers to handle these calls. By the grace of god and a lot of luck we were spared the loss of an officer in 2009. How much longer can ou luck hold? With the number of new, energetic and enthusiastic officers in the field and fewer experienced officers, the odds are largely against us.
The claims today do not surprise me but give cause for concern. Painting a picture of all is well and San Diego is safer than ever is a disservice to the citizens we serve. We strive to earn the support of the public and yet on a daily basis we let so many down. The citizen who was a victim, sitting at home watching the news report these low crime statistics, will no doubt have a different opinion knowing the truth about their experience.
Here is a statistic I would challenge you to look at; determine how many calls were received by communications; routed to the telephone report unit; and how many actual reports were taken. This would no doubt provide insight into the reason for the low numbers, but not support any claim of lower crime.


Just Wondering said...

Your suggestion of tracking the number of calls for service routed to Telephone Report Unit versus the number of reports written is an EXCELLENT method of measurement.

It's NOT difficult to find with the Computer Aided Dispatch system (CAD) that tracks all such instances by "Incident Number".

The CAD system also tells us the final disposition of the Incident or call for service and whether a "Crime Case" number was generated.
In cases where a crime case number was not issued, a general reason is also given.

This could be a real eye-opener to the crime trends in San Diego. And, since all "changes" on incidents are time-stamped, the CAD can also tell us when the call came in and when the incident was finally closed, or if an incident was closed and then re-opened days later. An analysis of this data will give the citizens a truer picture of how long it's going to take to get their report filed.

Maybe someone in the more progressive media will pickup on this story and start digging for the truth on how crime stats can be easily manipulated in America's Finest City.

Anonymous said...

As of 0930 on January 28th, there were 330 calls holding in the Telephone Report Unit. Some have been holding for a week. How many of those victims will just give up and never file their report?

Anonymous said...

I checked today, and there were about 110 calls holding. The oldest one was from January 14th..2 weeks ago!

AKJ said...

This is what bothers me. I have heard that calls for service have been going UP every year - so does it make any sense that crime is going DOWN? Think about that for a minute. If more people are calling in every year, but crime is still going down - what are these additional people calling about?