The Media, The FBI, and Confusion on Shooting Data

Many oft-cited statistics disregard forms of school violence that may not have involved guns but are similar to shootings in intention or impact, says The Atlantic. The messiness of counting school shootings contributes to sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in the U.S. based on information is confusing at best and inaccurate at worst.

After the Florida school massacre, news organizations are engaging in a grim tradition: tallying the ever-growing list of school shootings in the U.S., and of mass shootings more generally, The Atlantic reports. The Daily Beast cited data from Everytown, the gun-control advocacy group, which called the Florida episode the 59th shooting at or near schools this academic year. The counting of school shootings, and of other types of shootings and incidents of mass violence, isn’t a straightforward process. Many oft-cited statistics disregard forms of school violence that may not have involved guns but are similar to shootings in intention or impact. The messiness of counting school shootings contributes to sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in the U.S. based on information is confusing at best and inaccurate at worst.

In 2008, the FBI limited its definition of mass shootings to a single incident in which a shooter kills four or more people. In 2013 the agency defined an “active shooter” as a person “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” After the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Ct., Congress defined“mass killings” as three or more killings in one incident. Separating out different forms of gun violence in the statistics is crucial in understanding why shootings happen and how they might be prevented. Under pressure from the National Rifle Association, Congress in 1996 prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding public-health research on firearms issues. There is still no comprehensive federal database on gun deaths, let alone on school shootings. After the Aurora, Co., movie-theater shooting, Mother Jones created an open-source database of mass shootings. The newspaper Education Week launched a database that counts school shootings. Each database has its own criteria for what it defines as a mass or school shooting.

from https://thecrimereport.org

St. Louis, Baltimore Had Highest Homicide Rates in Early ’17

Data from the first six months of 2017 showed the cities with the highest murder numbers per 100,000 population. New Orlenas, Detroit and Cleveland rounded out the top five. Chicago came in as number eight.

CBS News compiled a list of the supposedly deadliest U.S. cities, based on data for the first six months of 2017 compiled by the Major City Chiefs Association. St. Louis is listed as the city with the highest homicide rate, 29.1 per 100,000 population. Baltimore is second, at 27.3, followed by New Orleans, 24.5, Detroit, 20.2 and Cleveland, 14.5.

Chicago has been notable for its high murder totals in recent years, but on a per capita basis, the city ranks only number eight on CBS’s list, with a rate of 12.1 per 100,000 population. The FBI and criminologists warn against using crime data to rank cities, saying it can produce misleading results because of vagaries in city boundaries and other factors.

from https://thecrimereport.org

56 Percent Say Reducing Crime Is A Top Priority

Observations 56 percent of Americans believe that crime needs to be reduced. 68 percent of Americans believe that crime is increasing. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of […]

Observations 56 percent of Americans believe that crime needs to be reduced. 68 percent of Americans believe that crime is increasing. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

How Longer Police Response Times Can Deflate Crime Count

Long response times can lead to officers recording fewer incidents as crimes. An analysis of data from New Orleans, Detroit and Cincinnati found that as response times go up, the likelihood that a crime will be found drops.

A 911 call was made on October 15, 2015, to report a New Orleans battery incident involving a relatively minor use of force. Police arrived nearly a half-hour later, found no evidence of a crime having occurred, and went on their way. The reality of the situation was quite different, according to a report published by The New Orleans Advocate. In actuality, a car had blown through a stop sign just after 11 p.m. A 64-year-old man visiting from San Diego was nearly hit by the car and exchanged angry words with the driver, who a witness says assaulted the tourist. The victim was ultimately paralyzed, reports FiveThirtyEight.com. The emergency medical service arrived 13 minutes after the 911 call was placed. The ambulance left with the injured tourist eight minutes before a police officer reached the scene. Finding no victim, the officer marked the call “unfounded.”

The incident is an egregious example of the effect that lengthy police response times can have on a city’s crime totals. Over the course of the hundreds of thousands of incidents that take place each year, long response times can lead to officers recording fewer incidents as crimes, which can hurt the reliability of crime totals tallied by the FBI when the agency compiles national statistics. And ultimately, these delays can erode public confidence in the police. An analysis of 2016 data from three cities, New Orleans, Detroit and Cincinnati, and found that as response times go up, the likelihood that a crime will be found goes down. Indeed, in all three cities, when police took more than two hours to respond, they were over 2.5 times more likely to report they’d found no evidence that a crime had occurred.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Violent Crime Reduction Needs Context

Observations A small reduction in violent crime for the first six months of 2017 is good news, and we all hope it continues, but declaring that violent crime is declining or will decline for all of 2017 is a stretch at best. When compared to twenty years of crime data, the 2017 numbers are mushy and somewhat […]

Observations A small reduction in violent crime for the first six months of 2017 is good news, and we all hope it continues, but declaring that violent crime is declining or will decline for all of 2017 is a stretch at best. When compared to twenty years of crime data, the 2017 numbers are mushy and somewhat […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Denver Police Finds Problems With 1,000 Crime Reports

The police department says it “discovered some anomalies in how cases were being classified.” Chief Robert White ordered an audit of the relevant citywide crime statistics. The department has never explained what specific anomalies were found. CBS4 said the crime reports were downgraded in a way that improved department crime statistics.

The Denver Police Department has discovered problems with 1,000 of its crime reports, prompting an investigation into who is responsible for the errors and whether someone intentionally fudged the numbers, reports the Denver Post. Inaccurate data or false reporting can damage a department’s credibility, said criminologist Jim Ponzi of Regis University in Denver who has researched crime reporting and its impact. “The biggest thing of all is how do you stop crime if your statistics are inaccurate?” he said. “Where do you dedicate your resources if you don’t have baseline data?” The department is unable to finalize its 2017 annual crime report as it digs into why the numbers are flawed and who is responsible, said police spokesman Sonny Jackson.

Jackson would not specify which categories of crime statistics are flawed or from which of the city’s six police districts the reports originated. The audit found about 1,000 crime reports that were problematic, about 1 percent of the total crime reports filed in 2017. Crime data can affect everything from where a police department assigns its officers to home prices in neighborhoods where crime may appear rampant. The numbers also can influence decisions about promotions and commendations within police departments as commanders who can show decreased crime in their districts are rewarded. Denver police issued a news release to report that employees in its data analysis unit had “discovered some anomalies in how cases were being classified.” Chief Robert White ordered an audit of the relevant citywide crime statistics. The department has never explained what specific anomalies were found. CBS4 said the crime reports were downgraded in a way that improved department crime statistics. Intentionally reporting false crime data could be criminal under Colorado laws.

from https://thecrimereport.org

New Evidence Links Medicaid Expansion to Lower Crime Rates

Economist Qiwei He of Clemson University, studying 2010-2016 FBI data, found that access to health care decreased homicide by 7.7 percent; burglary rates by 3.6 percent; motor vehicle thefts by 10 percent; robbery by 6.1 percent; and aggravated assault by 2.7 percent.

New economic research ties Medicaid expansion to lower crime rates and billions of dollars in “crime reduction benefits,” adding to the small body of empirical evidence on the effect of health care on criminal behavior.

Using state- and county-level data from FBI Uniform Crime Reports between 2010 and 2016, economist Qiwei He, of the John E. Walker Department of Economics at Clemson University, compared states with Medicaid expansions to those without, and found that access to health care decreased homicide by 7.7 percent; burglary rates by 3.6 percent; motor vehicle thefts by 10 percent; robbery by 6.1 percent; and aggravated assault by 2.7 percent.

According to the study, which was first published in late December and updated last week, Medicaid expansion saved states nearly $10 billion in one year.

The analysis was carried out concurrently with another investigation of Medicaid expansion and crime, covered in Oct 2017 by The Crime Report. While both studies conclude that access to health care reduces crime rates, He writes that his analysis shows a somewhat weaker effect.

According to He, “the statistically significant crime reduction effects of the Medicaid expansion on Burglary, motor vehicle theft, and robbery provide evidence that the Medicaid expansion is more likely to affect money-related crimes than other crimes.”

crime rates

See also: Medicaid Expansion Tied to Reduction in Crime

The full report, The Effect of Health Insurance on Crime Evidence from the Affordable Care Act Medicaid Expansion, is available for free download on SSRN. This summary was prepared by Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie. She welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Crimes Americans Worry About Most

Secret Service Police Vehicle Overview When you have 20 to 40 percent of Americans worried about street crime, and 65 percent concerned about cybercrime, it explains a lot as to our crime policies and our views of criminality and criminal justice policy. Author  Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal […]

Secret Service Police Vehicle Overview When you have 20 to 40 percent of Americans worried about street crime, and 65 percent concerned about cybercrime, it explains a lot as to our crime policies and our views of criminality and criminal justice policy. Author  Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal […]

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Congressman Seeks Answers on Missing Crime Data

Rep. José Serrano (D-NY), a member of a congressional committee that oversees the Justice Department, said that the FBI should restore crime data missing from its annual report for 2016 and that DOJ should “investigate who approved this change and why.”

The Trump administration’s focus on crime has made it all the more surprising that the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States report lacked a significant amount of data that experts have relied upon for years to assess crime trends, Mother Jones reports. Until this year, the report contained 81 tables that allowed researchers to track everything from the rate of violent crime to the racial breakdown of arrests. When the 2016 report came out in September, there were only 29 tables. The information needed to understand and verify the crime stats cited by the attorney general, as well as the work of local law enforcement, was harder to obtain. The decision to remove the data hampers the ability of criminologists and journalists to analyze crime trends as the administration is  responding to rising violent crime. The FBI has claimed the move was part of a years-long process to revamp how it collects and disseminates crime data to the public. FBI Director Christopher Wray told a congressional panel this month that the missing tables will be added back into the latest report.

The Crime & Justice Research Alliance, representing criminologists, sent a letter to Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and several members of Congress with oversight responsibilities for the Justice Department asking for the missing data to be restored. A House Judiciary Committee aide says the committee’s staff have helped “facilitate discussions between the Crime & Justice Research Alliance and the FBI.” Rep. José Serrano (D-NY), one of the lawmakers who received the letter from the Crime & Justice Research Alliance, said that  the data should be returned to the report and that the Justice Department should “investigate who approved this change and why.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Big-City Crime Will Fall This Year, Brennan Center Projects

The Brennan Center for Justice disputes a Trump administration theme of a crime wave, estimating that crime in the nation’s largest cities will drop this year. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, using apparently dated FBI figures, said on Monday that violent crime is up.

The overall crime rate in 28 of the 30 largest U.S. cities fell about 2.7 percent this year, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University estimated on Wednesday. The center said violent crime also dropped, but only by 1.1 percent.

Assuming that the trend holds, violent crime would be near the bottom of a 30-year downward trend. This year is expected to end with the second-lowest rates of crime and violent crime since 1990, the center said.

Disputing a theme of the Trump administration, the Brennan Center contended that its “findings directly undercut any claim that the nation is experiencing a crime wave.”

Looking at murders in the big cities, the total rate dropped 5.6 percent, led by declines in Chicago and Detroit, the center said.

Murders in Chicago went up sharply in both 2015 and 2016, but the center projected the rate to drop 11.9 percent this year. Still, that is 62.4 percent above 2014.

The center speculated that the national increases of the last two years, led by Chicago, may have been “short-term fluctuations in a longer-term downward trend.”

The murder rate in Detroit was projected to fall about 9.8 percent.

New York City’s rate also will decline, to 3.3 murders per 100,000 population.

Murders in some cities will increase, including Charlotte, a rate increase of 54.6 percent, and Baltimore, 11.3 percent.

Among the 30 largest cities, violent-crime data were not available from Phoenix and Oklahoma City.

Also, the center did not include the 58 deaths in the Las Vegas concert shooting, saying that authorities classified them as terrorism. Murders in Las Vegas, not counting the concert massacre, were projected to drop from 168 to 143 this year.

The authors made year-end projections based on partial year data for this report. They explained that because of the seasonal nature of crime, it would not be appropriate, for example, to double the totals from the first six months of the year to arrive at an annual figure.

Instead, the Brennan Center said it makes projections by incorporating month-to-month trends from previous years to make annual estimates “as accurate as possible.”

President Trump ran for office on a “tough on crime” platform that has emphasized a focus on places where crime totals are up.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking in Milwaukee on Monday, said that the long-term trend of declining crime in the last two decades “has reversed” in the last two years.

Sessions said, “The violent crime rate is up by nearly seven percent. Robberies are up. Assaults are up nearly 10 percent. Rape is up by nearly 11 percent. Murder is up by more than 20 percent.”

Sessions did not specify his source of data, but it apparently was the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which lags behind the Brennan Center’s analysis. The FBI issued its report for 2016 in late September.

It estimated 17,250 murders in the U.S. in 2016, an 8.6 percent rise from 2015.

The FBI said that violent crime totals rose 4.1 percent in 2016, while property crime fell 1.3 percent compared to 2015 figures.

The FBI’s report is based on data submitted voluntarily by local law enforcement agencies, which does not include the many crimes not reported to police. The FBI compilation included most U.S. cities, far more than the Brennan Center’s 28.

Data in the Brennan Center report also was also obtained directly from cities, but on a much more current basis.

This summary was prepared by Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org