Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crime Reporting: Baltimore Under the Microscope

The Baltimore Police Department is in the middle of a firestorm over under reporting sexual assault. Baltimore police deem nearly one-third of rape reports "unfounded," meaning they believe they are false or baseless — more than in any other city in the country, according to a Baltimore Sun investigation.

Under reporting crime in a national problem. New York City, Dallas, Houston and Boston to name a few have come under fire for fudging crime statistics. Politics and honest crime reporting do not always mix. Baltimore has a history of under reporting. According to the Sun, in 2000, police had to reclassify 9,572 reports because they had been wrongly downgraded to lesser offenses, turning a much hyped 10 percent crime drop into a 3.5 percent increase.

The Sun reported that Sheldon F. Greenberg, a former Howard County police officer who now heads a police executive training program at the Johns Hopkins University, said the over-reliance on numbers encourages manipulation.

"Too many police executives around the country are judged by good stats and the absence of problems," Greenberg said. "If you don't upset the apple cart and generate good stats, you're considered in high regard, regardless of whether the community is better."

Greenberg said that cops dismissing and downgrading crime has been going on — and will go on — as long as politicians need the low crime figures to win elections. Cops are so intent on bringing down the numbers that they have no time to do the work required to actually reduce crime, he said.

To read more:,0,1517804.story

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