The Visalia Times-Delta had a recent story about Tulare, California Police Department's efforts to ensure their crime statistics are accurate.
"You have to know you produce valid data," she said. "That information must be reliable. It has to be accurate."
Faulty information can send law enforcement agencies the wrong direction when dealing with a crime wave or be late in reallocating resources to handle hard-to-spot trends.
One illustration I frequently use when I speak to the public about crime analysis and the importance of accuracy is comparing crime statistics to dead reckoning navigation. Back in the days before modern navigation devices, sailing ships used this method of navigation to get where they were going.
The way it worked was ships would start from a known position, then carefully chart their direction, speed and time traveled to determine where they were at all times so they could get to where they were headed.
In applying this analogy to crime analysis, in order to know where you are going, you have to know as accurately as possible where you have been. If you are going to know if your crime reduction efforts are effective, you need to maintain accurate crime statistics at all times.
What are you doing to encourage a culture of accurate crime statistics within your agency?