Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Long Is Too Long To Wait For Crime Stats?

The Times of Trenton had an editorial piece that commended the New Jersey State Police for plans to post crime statistics from New Jersey police agencies that will be updated on a weekly basis.
Until now, state officials have compiled that information in a yearly Uniform Crime Report. That annual accounting is thick with information but, because of the lag time, some of the data is nearly two years old before it becomes publicly available. 
“For the first time, we are able to give the public a sense of the current crime picture in their area,” State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes says. “Even as preliminary data, this will be a great new tool for the public.”
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports program is the main repository for crime stats data. However, it takes some time before crime data submitted by local police agencies is available to the public at the UCR website. In fact, if you look right now the latest UCR data covers January-June of 2012. It will probably be this summer before the FBI releases the preliminary 2012 UCR data and then it will only be for cities with a population of 100,000 or greater. It will be late summer or fall before the 2012 Uniform Crime Report in it's entirety will be available.

Back when the UCR program was implemented in the 1930's the crime stats from individual agencies had to be mailed in to the state agency responsible and then the states data was compiled and was mailed to the FBI. The FBI would then compile them all together and typeset a report with all the data and send the whole thing off to the printer. Then once they came back from the printer they would then mail the reports out to police agencies and whoever else wanted them. You can see how it might take some time to accomplish all this.

However, it seems that with technology such as the Internet that 6 to 9 months is an awful long time to get crime statistics emailed in, compiled into a report and then posted on a website.

I'm glad to see the State of New Jersey trying to get ahead of the game and provide this data to the public quickly. In the words of The Times of Trenton:
"As the information age continues to accelerate, this online summary represents another step toward keeping pace with that velocity as well as the goal of transparency."
Now let's see if other states follow suit.

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