Crime statistics are compiled by many different governmental and non-governmental entities. They are used for a variety of purposes, some of them practical, others being political. The primary source for crime statistics both nationwide and among various states, cities and other governmental subdivisions is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) is supposed to paint an accurate picture of a variety of illegal activities, including major crimes and hate crimes, among others. It is a compilation of reports by close to 18,000 city, college, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.
In theory, it’s a great tool to target problem areas, targeting what may work to decrease various crimes, and related law enforcement matters. The problem is that it only works if the data used is accurate and complete. The issue is whether the information being used is correct – or, in the case of Arizona – whether it’s being reported to the FBI at all. In mathematics and science, they have a phrase to describe the problem – “Garbage In, Garbage Out” (GIGO) – meaning that the results are only as good and therefore as useful as the input used.
Arizona law enforcement lax on hate crime stats
We reported in our blog near the end of last year that hate crimes in Phoenix were on the rise. Now, a year later, when we followed up on the issue, we found that this year’s statistics showed a decrease in the number of hate crimes in Arizona. We also found, however, that over a dozen law enforcement agencies in the state, covering 16 different jurisdictions, failed to supply any information on hate crimes to the FBI. So, if the statistics show a reduction in hate crime over the past year, perhaps that is due to the fact that so many law enforcement agencies decided to ignore the mandate to provide the information to the FBI.
At the least, it makes the FBI hate crime stats for Arizona suspect; at worst, it may demonstrate that across the state, many law enforcement agencies are failing to track hate crimes. In either event, it makes a mockery of the UCR process.
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