After reviewing a report published by an independent agency on Neighborhoodscout,com that the city of Tallahassee ranked in the top 100 of the most dangerous cities in the United States, the following comment was obtained by a spokesperson in the Administration Services Division of TPD.
The first common pitfall is to use UCR statistics to compare between law enforcement jurisdictions. Because of media and research attention on UCR data the FBI warns against using UCR data to rank jurisdictions. There are far too many factors that go into a community’s crime rate to accurately compare between jurisdictions and conclude that one community is “safer” than another.
In addition, defining the “chance” of victimization based simply on UCR data and population is highly inaccurate. Where an individual resident lives, works, their family dynamics, entertainment venues, participation in high-risk behaviors, etc. will drastically change the risk of victimization. The misconception is that risk is equal among all residents.
The Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) uses UCR data for its intended purpose – tracking of crime trends, long-term planning for operational priorities, and resource allocation. The critical factor in UCR data analysis is comparison of data within a jurisdiction over time. The following chart reflects TPD’s recent reporting of UCR data for budgetary and planning purposes:
Murder, Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault
Burglary, Larceny, Auto Theft
The five-year trend (2006-2010) of reported UCR crime in Tallahassee shows an 11.3% increase. From a shorter-term perspective, however, UCR crime reported during 2010 is 4.5% lower than during 2008. And going back even further to 2000, overall UCR crime in Tallahassee is down by approximately 13.5% (2000 – 12,570 / 2010 – 10,876). While the tracking of crime would appear to be a straight forward process, how the numbers are interpreted can become very complex and statistical manipulation can lead to many false and/or inaccurate conclusions.
This writer whole heartedly agrees with the above commentary concerning the Neighborhoodscout.com report on the top 100 most dangerous cities in the USA. The FBI UCR publishers cautions agencies like the Neighborhoodscout to not draw any conclusions with the UCR statistics because there are too many variables to consider in the obtaining of the data from the 17,000 reporting police agencies. How one uses statistics need to be reminded of the story about the women who went to a doctor for an abortion. She was pregnant with her fourth child. The doctor ask why she wanted the abortion and she replied that she heard that every fourth child born in the world was a Chinese and she did not think she could handle it. Bottom line is to be careful how you develop probabilities based on statistics.