Monday, July 8, 2013

When You Fudge Your Crime Numbers, You're Hurting Your Department

There was a piece in The New York Times last week that looked at an NYPD audit of how crime stats were counted. The upshot of the piece is that the audit uncovered a number of instances where crimes were misclassified.
While praising the department on the considerable resources devoted to auditing crime statistics, the committee noted that most of those efforts were directed at identifying “human error” — that is, unintentional mistakes in a police officer’s paperwork. But for “an officer who wishes to manipulate crime reporting,” the report said there were “few other procedures in place that control the various avenues of potential manipulation.”
Via The New York Times
As a crime analyst, this kind of nonsense drives me crazy. While you may get a temporary pat on the back for driving crime down in your district, the praise is likely to be short lived. One, there are plenty of folks (journalists for one) out there willing to dig through the crime reports, find where you screwed up and pillory you for it.

The second and more important reasons is, if you fudge your numbers then you do not have an accurate assessment of what is actually going on in your community. You will be unable to identify crime problems, and you will be unable to identify if your crime reduction efforts are actually working. While you are driving around in the dark hoping that your crime reduction efforts are working you could be unaware that a nearly insurmountable crime problem is developing.

Don't fudge your crime numbers. It's stupid and you are only hurting your agency in the long run.

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