2008 DC Crime Rate: Up or Down?

by Borderstan.com September 16, 2009 at 6:12 am 1,192 3 Comments

MPD's 2008 crime stats say crime went down in the city. (Image: MPD website.)

MPD says crime was down in 2008 in DC. (Image: MPD website.)

The FBI's Uniform Crime Statistics say crime went up in 2008 in the city. (Image: FBI website)

The FBI says DC crime was up in 2008. (Image: FBI website)

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.


  • Ah, it is indeed interesting to compare DCMPD stats with FBI stats.

  • Lee

    The simple solution for this problem is for the MPD to do as all other police agencies and submit and track crime using the UCR. To continue to blame the differences in the FBI calculations and its calculations on the two systems is disingenous. For the record, here is what D.C. law defines Aggravated assault. 22-404.01.

    Aggravated assault.
    (a) A person commits the offense of aggravated assault if:

    (1) By any means, that person knowingly or purposely causes serious bodily injury to another person; or

    (2) Under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, that person intentionally or knowingly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious bodily injury to another person, and thereby causes serious bodily injury.

    Here is the definiton for Simple Assault:

    § 22-404. Assault or threatened assault in a menacing manner; stalking.

    (a)(1) Whoever unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or be imprisoned not more than 180 days, or both.

    The FBI’s Uniform Reporting Handbook revised in 2004 defines aggravated assaults using one body parts (hands, feet etc.) as follows:

    Aggravated Assault—Hands, Fists, Feet, Etc.—Aggravated Injury (4d)
    The category Aggravated Assault—Hands, Fists, Feet, etc.—Aggravated Injury (4d) includes only the attacks using personal weapons such as hands, arms, feet, fists, and teeth, that result in serious or aggravated injury. Reporting agencies must consider the seriousness of the injury as the primary factor in establishing whether the assault is aggravated or simple. They must classify the assault as aggravated if the personal injury is serious, for example, there are broken bones, internal injuries, or stitches required. On the other hand, they must classify the offense as simple assault if the injuries are not serious (abrasions, minor lacerations, or contusions) and require no more than usual first-aid treatment.

    The UCR definition of aggravated assault using a hand or foot is consistant with what D.C. law definition of aggravated assault. Chief Lanier’s explanation for the discrepancy makes no sense.

  • mattyillini

    Lee – A huge thanks!Tell us more.


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