Did the crime rate in DC go up or down in 2008 compared to 2007? If you use the DC MPD’s crime stats, the answer is “down.” If you use the numbers compiled by the FBI—based on information submitted to them by MPD—then the answer is “up.”
I have read about the issues around these two types of numbers before. Yesterday, I saw the following blurb in the WCP’s Loose Lips Daily column:
The Metropolitan Police Department holds that violent crime went down in 2008; and yet FBI numbers hold that violent crime in fact went up in 2008—2.3 percent, to be precise. What gives? Examiner’s Scott McCabe explains that District and FBI systems ‘classify certain crimes differently, police said. Under the D.C. Code, a punch is considered a simple assault; under the FBI’s definition, it’s considered an aggravated assault, or a violent crime.’ It could be, as union chief Kris Baumann alleges, ‘play[ing] with crime numbers to give residents the impression that the city was safer than it really was.’ In any case, what took the MPD so long to report the FBI figures?
I then asked MPD public affairs for some sort of statement on the Examiner story and the different sets of crime numbers. Here is the response:
DC Crime and UCR numbers are two different categorizations of data. MPD publishes both sets of numbers in the Annual Report, which is posted on the MPD website. Burglary, larceny, sexual assault and robbery are all categorized differently between UCR and DC Code.
I hope to have more later on this subject… as well as a look at the 2009 numbers according to the MPD crime database.