I have to yawn every time I see academic research
where crime statistics are heavily relied upon to
validate theories and conclusions.  While most
people would agree that academics feel intellectually
superior, and not without reason, they still rely on
statistical data provided by the less intellectual
among us.

You would think that since crime is such a critical
social issue that affects everyone to some degree,
every police department would make extraordinary
efforts to accurately report crime.  In fact, the FBI's
Uniform Crime Reporting System has existed for
decades.  The system is superbly designed to
accurately classify types and instances of crime
committed in the United States.
The incredible advancements in computer
technology have made the potential for statistical
analysis endless.  It's too bad no one has found a
way to remove people from the process.  People will
always be the determining factor for the accuracy,
or near accuracy, of statistical compilations.
You'll learn very quickly that somebody is tracking
something all the time, and you'll be expected to
provide the statistics.  Hopefully, you won't be
subjected to the "this" today and "something else"
next week.  If you are...just resign yourself to the

Even when a good system is in place to track useful
information, it can always be manipulated.  I once
checked the number of arrests for an officer who'd
spent little more than a year on the street before
moving onward and upward.  I was amazed to see
the officer had made nearly 300 arrests in that
short period of time.  It got better.  Nearly all the
arrests were high quality such as robbery, burglary,
rape, etc.  

The high arrest number and type standing alone
would be impressive; however, under closer
examination, the time frame, quantity and quality
revealed the officer spent more time hanging
around the desk sergeant than working the street.  
When an arrest warrant would arrive for a suspect
previously arrested on an unrelated charge, the
officer would simply sign for service of the warrant
and become the arresting officer of record.  Like
this officer, you don't have to break any rules to
manipulate statistics as long as your creativity and
motive is not illegal.

High quality statistical compilation and analysis can
benefit a police department in positive ways too
many to describe, but it all comes down to the
quality of the people doing the compiling and
"Torture numbers, and they'll
confess to anything."
~ Gregg Easterbrook
Let's say a new police chief is hired, and he or she
determines that crime for the previous year was
under reported.  Some formula is concocted to
increase selected categories of crime.  Now the chief
is competing against an artificially higher crime rate
from the previous year.  Fudging the old numbers
upward is also easier to justify than messing
around with ongoing crime reporting.

Statistical analysis is extremely important if it's
done under systems of real quality control.  You'll
often hear those two words - quality control.  Too
often, they're just mere words uttered with no
actual system in existence to support them.  
Accurate statistics also require a continuity of
purpose.  You can't continually change the criteria
for statistical tracking, and here's where police
departments fail badly.  A police department is a
political animal, and it is constantly at the mercy of
political winds and whims.
"I have to yawn every time I see academic
research where crime statistics are heavily
relied upon to validate theories and
conclusions." ~ Barry M. Baker
While a decentralized police structure is vital for the
preservation of a democratic republic, it performs
poorly when it comes to accurately documenting
crimes.  First, the UCR is voluntary; although,
enough police departments report via UCR to make
the system a good measure of crime.  However,
how those police departments report crime
determines its accuracy, and here's where the train
goes off the tracks.

I'm certain there are some police departments that
maintain strict adherence to UCR guidelines.  You
might even join a police department in that
category.  Of course, there's no way of knowing;
until, you're on the inside and privy to the way
things are done.  It's really pretty simple.  You'll
either be held to a high standard for accurately
reporting crime, or you'll receive subtle or overt
pressure to ignore or downgrade crime.

While you're the most important element in crime
reporting since it all starts with you, crime results
can still be manipulated down the road by the
formula junkies.  The formulas are most useful in
reducing reported crime; however, they can be used
to increase crime as well.  
Police and
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker