Monday, June 15, 2009

Detroit Crime Stats Mistakes Even Extends to Undercounting Murders in the City

I mentioned before how the City of Detroit has a new way to reduce crime by failing to take crime reports. Apparently this wasn't just for property crimes but even for murders.

From The Detroit Free Press: Who's dead wrong on homicides?
It’s nothing for the City of Baltimore to get happy about, but a headline in today’s Baltimore Sun hollers : “Error by Detroit makes Baltimore No. 2 in murders.” Detroit police have acknowledged an error in the 2008 homicide total submitted to the FBI, the Sun states. The change again makes Detroit No. 1 in homicide rates among big U.S. cities. But I still don’t know how many of my fellow Detroiters were killed last year. Nor does anyone, it seems.

The FBI reported this week that murders last year dropped 22% in Detroit, from 392 in 2007 to 306 last year. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy told me on Wednesday that her investigative files showed 394 homicides in Detroit as of Dec. 6.

And it doesn’t stop there. Questioned about the numbers after Worthy’s remarks, a Detroit police spokesman said Chief James Barren, appointed in October, acknowledged at a January town hall meeting that the homicide numbers reported to the FBI were erroneous, mostly because of misclassifications. Police then put the number of homicides at 339. So now we have three figures out there: 306, 339 and about 400. (Muddling matters more: When police said last week that homicides were up 24% so far this year, it’s not clear whether they were using the 306 or 339 figure from last year.)

Homicide statistics are supposed to be the most reliable of all crime categories reported by police. A theft or home invasion might not get investigated or reported, but a homicide should always get noted, even if the case isn’t cleared. If homicide numbers are shaky, how reliable are other police stats?

How exaclty did Detroit Police manage to undercount murders? After all its supposedly a little more difficult to hide bodies than other property crimes. It could be the new math, it could be they're dropping off bodies in dumpsters to avoid reporting homicides to keep the crime rate down, or perhaps it works in this fashion (with apologies to Monty Python):

Witness: I wish to make a police report.
Detroit PD: well what seems to be the matter then

Witness: I wish to make a report of a crime that happened in this very precinct.
Detroit PD: Sorry, I'm about to head to lunch.

W: Never mind that, I wish to complain about this dead body.
DPD: Oh yes, the, uh, the Homo Sapiens Detroitus...What's,uh...What's wrong with him?

W: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with him!
DPD: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

W: Look, I know a dead man when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
DPD: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable outfit eh?

W: The outfit don't enter into it. he's stone dead.
DPD: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

W: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up!
(shouting) 'Ello, Mister! (DPD kicks the body's leg)
DPD: There, he moved!

W: No, he didn't, that was you hitting his leg!
DPD: I never!!

W: Yes, you did!
DPD: I never, never did anything..

W: (yelling and hitting the body repeatedly) HELLO BODY!!!!!
Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!
takes body and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.
W: Now that's what I call a dead body.

DPD: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

DPD: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Homo Sapiens Detroitus stun easily, nothing to see here, move along

Statistics are only as good as the people collecting and quantifying them and here it seems the quality is quite lacking.

1 comment: said...

Lying is always ONE option for better statistics. Cleaning up the streets would be another, but with the Granholm-Cherry administration cutting a hundred cops and releasing thousands of felons early that doesn't seem to be particularly realistic.