Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Gap in murder stats a mystery

FBI's numbers differ from city's

By Jane Prendergast, jprendergast@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FBI violent crime statistics released Monday for Cincinnati differ significantly from city police numbers, including a gap of 18 homicides in one year.

        No one could explain why the FBI's preliminary Uniform Crime Report data for 2001 was different from crimes tracked by Cincinnati police in every category of serious crime.

        The FBI collects statistics from city, suburban, rural and state police, which voluntarily report them.

        The FBI released only its big-city crime statistics Monday. Overall it showed a 2 percent increase nationwide in crimes reported, a 0.3 percent increase in violent crime and a 2.2 increase in property crimes.

Comparing FBI, police statistics
    Crime statistics for Cincinnati released Monday by the FBI vary widely from the same numbers reported by the Cincinnati Police Department:

    FBI -- Cincinnati Police

    2001: 54 -- 61
    2000: 22 -- 40

    2001: 314 -- 330
    2000: 284 -- 351

    2001: 2,091 -- 1,895
    2000: 1,404 -- 1,534

   Aggravated assault:
    2001: 1,531 -- 1,294
    2000: 1,073 -- 1,101

    2001: 6,218 -- 5,799
    2000: 4,960 -- 5,170

    2001: 13,848 -- 13,180
    2000: 12,440 -- 12,803

   Auto theft:
    2001: 3,247 -- 3,596
    2000: 2,029 -- 2,587

   Source: FBI preliminary Uniform Crime Reports; Cincinnati Police Department.

        For Cincinnati, the FBI lists 54 murders during 2001; there were 61. There's an even bigger difference in 2000 — 22 murders, compared to the actual 40. In six other categories the numbers also vary. Local figures are higher, lower; even off by hundreds.

        Police and experts offered a variety of explanations, including that a rape, for example, may be reclassified in police reports after investigation as an assault.

        Also, the FBI counts murder differently.

        Justified killings by police, for example, are not counted as homicides by the FBI. But Cincinnati does count them — there were four people killed by police in 2000.

        “It's not like we're hiding anything,” said spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd. “We know we've had a rise in violent crime. We know how many homicides there were last year.”

        According to police, serious crime in the city rose 21 percent in 2001, led by a 52 percent increase in auto theft and almost a 30 percent increase in aggravated robbery.

        Criminal justice experts said the differences between FBI and Cincinnati data — particularly 2000 homicides — are perplexing. Homicide is usually considered the most reliable statistic.

        “It's hard to miscount bodies,” said Michael Maltz, a criminal justice professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago whowill be watching Cincinnati's numbers as part of a study of the FBI's reporting program. He has a National Institute of Justice grant to research the numbers from 1977 through 2000.

        Ted Gest, head of Criminal Justice Journalists, a national group of reporters who cover crime, called the differences puzzling. He said the FBI always stresses that the June releases are preliminary, but he couldn't recall the final numbers varying greatly.

        The biggest increases in crime hit cities with populations between 250,000 and 499,999. Cincinnati, with more than 330,000 residents, fits in that category. The numbers do not include any deaths from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

        Calls to local and national FBI offices were not returned.


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