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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crime Reporting Questions and Jealous Reporters? (Crime Statistics Part 1)

Data is only as relevant as the source of the numbers provided and once again, there is huge resistance from CMPD to provide the information about the source of the information.
This time, it’s Charlotte’s crime-related numbers.  They have gone so far as to say it’s not public information, and have demanded again that if someone wants and explanation of data about crime numbers that don’t seem to add up, they must provide personal information to the Public Affairs Captain for the Office of the Chief.   (See previous posts concerning CMPD financials and CMPD Charity questions).    This demand came via the CMPD Attorney.  Is this the way our Police Department and City should be functioning? 
Why are entire departments of personnel within CMPD devoted to records, crime reporting, and crime analysis, but the best answers the Chief can give are to deny access by using the expense and power of the Chief’s attorneys to do it?  And why demand again that simple data which is in the control of the other departments mentioned above be controlled by a Public Affairs Captain who likely does not have the same statistical grasp as the ones who have the data?  As you can read this footnote provided separately, the CMPD attorney wrote that one set of numbers provided was a total of 311 calls, 911 calls, “walk-ups” to officers, and Crime Reporting Unit data—but when questioned, the CMPD attorney stated they did not know the individual numbers 

1These totals exclude duplicate and cancelled calls for service; they include calls handled by the Crime Reporting Unit as well as by division field officers, detectives and related CMPD staff.
The CMPD Attorney stated, “We do not record data on calls for service based on the method collected.”    Really?  Then how did they add a total?

This excuse makes no more sense than some of the other numbers provided.
Here is just one example of the wild shift in reported calls for service that changed down to zero in 2009 and 2010.  CMPD refused to explain if there was a process shift or if the calls for service were being accounted for in some other way now. 
How is it that the number of prostitution calls went from over 1200 to 0 (zero)?    Is that accurate or is the number being accounted for somewhere else?  This number seems wildly off, unless there is a process change or other explanation.
(*Reports provided will be posted in upcoming segments*)

In February 9, 2009, at a City Council Meeting, Mayor McCrory appeared to ask a question of Chief Monroe about a Crime Reporting controversy that actually made it to a local paper.  The response was typical—instead of giving data, he did not respond directly to any data in the article which had been released.  He went so far as to suggest the reporter’s concerns were about jealousy.  None of the City Council seemed to find it unusual that a police chief would think a reporter would be jealous of him and thus make up a story…  Chief Monroe went on to volunteer that accountability for reported crime numbers was not enforced by threats or punishment—another seemingly unusual thing to say.
Citynewswatch would normally refer you to watch the exchange on the City Council’s Meeting site, and provide the link for the February 9, 2009, but all videos have been removed as of yesterday for reasons unknown, for time period unknown.  Maybe there is site maintenance.  For now, refer to this portion of meeting minutes in particular with the Chief responding to a reporter’s questions about Crime Statistics:
I’m not sure what caused this concern, whether it’s the lack of knowledge or understanding, low expectations, jealousy, or simple disbelief, but I can assure you that each and every one of us stands fast to make a difference, and I assure each of you and all the citizens of this community that our members are committed in making this community safer by direct action and nothing else.

Mayor McCrory goes on to say:   “I think my understanding is you are responding to some publications which give the impression that the crime stats on how we collect them have changed, and you are clearly stating you have not changed any process in which we collect our crime statistics and report them.

Chief Monroe said “Nothing.”

However, review of a recent document questioning some very strange crime numbers from that changed particularly in 2009 and 2010 produced this clear statement from CMPD Attorney Tracy Evans:

5Call totals may not match previously published totals due to adjustments for changes in call codes and procedures.

It seems very unlikely that Rodney Monroe didn’t know that when he stood before council and stated NOTHING had changed in any process in which we collect our crime statistics and report them.  If he did not know, that may be worse, but it’s a tough call.  If he did not know, he had a couple rows of commanders sitting behind him who could have spoken up.  They still may.

To CMPD Attorney Tracey Evans, with follow up forwarded to
Chief Rodney Monroe, Mayor Foxx, and Council Members:

You have supplied… a note no. 5 which I can find no reference to, except in your letter to me, but which says “call totals may not match previously published totals due to adjustments for changes in call codes and procedures.   What does that note … refer to?

What changes in call codes and procedures have there been, specifically?  When did those changes in call codes and procedures go in place?  Which call codes have they affected?  Where are the procedural changes documented (separate from my request for you to explain the answer)?  Has there been retraining of officers on these procedures?  How did that take place? (Supervisors, training academy, directives, manuals, memos, other method to describe)

Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2011
To: Tracey Evans, Rodney Monroe
Subject: Re: Number of calls for service, police department; Public Records Request

Please advise referencing these numbers below which

1) Do not match other published call numbers, and

2) Denote changed methods of reporting crime, without explanation, and

3) Crime numbers have changed radically with no explanation for what method may be employed to account for the change in numbers.

Please answer whatever questions you are able to answer from below today and let me know when you will be able to answer the rest.  I have had nonresponse at all in a week to these concerning issues.  If someone else is working on it, please let me know.

Thank you.

(Partial from Aug 30, sent to Evans, Monroe, Foxx, Council)

Unless Captain Cunningham is tracking and calculating these numbers, then he is not the proper person to explain...  Have the person who collects and analyzes these numbers send all information per my request.

Your numbers don't add up.  I have waited since July 21st to get these answers and you clearly want to keep the real numbers from getting out, but … this information belongs to the public and affects public policy.

Correct reporting of crime numbers from all aspects is critical.  I am asking you again to release the public information immediately from the correct personnel.  You have had more than ample time to contact the analysts to get the information.

On a tiny note at the CMPD Crime Annual Report, which only reports “Type One” crimes, they clearly indicate they may not be following the UCR rules:
Note: Totals, percent changes, and rankings in this chart are based on the most current on-line operational data from criminal case reports. Each incident report is counted as one case in this data and the date used for each case is the original reporting date. Figures therefore may vary slightly from Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), which creates static monthly reports based not on the case date but on various activity dates for reporting/unfounding/reclassification and individual counting rules that are victim-based rather than case-based for certain crime types. 

This footnote leaves open numerous holes in the accountability of the numbers submitted and reported by CMPD.  Among these, it could indicate reports are true that some multiple crimes are being clustered into single reports (such as multiple car break-ins) with cops under pressure to make crime numbers appear smaller, when crime is not actually lower. 

The CMPD Annual Crime Report on line only accounts for the “Type One” or most serious crimes, which fall into these eight categories: 
Violent crime:
1)     murder and non-negligent manslaughter,
2)     forcible rape,
3)     robbery, and
4)     aggravated assault) and
Property crime
5)     burglary
6)     larceny-theft
7)     motor vehicle theft
8)     arson
Other crimes are not tracked and rated in the same way, reflecting on political leaders and reported widely.  So, if possible to have reports of crimes be less serious than the list of crimes above, or not reported at all, that might be preferable to certain individuals as well. 

CMPD used to put out daily “Significant Event Logs” also called “Watch Commander Logs” to the media representatives on their lists, but all that stopped in 2009.  The explanation given at that time was that the same information was available on line, but citynewswatch can’t locate that information.  Multiple different crime reporting services and citizen chat sights have reported and complained that this information is no longer available since 2009, and that their former links are broken.  Complaints and requests to have the information reinstated have gone unanswered. 
Another question posed but unanswered is this:  I am aware of a category used which is Miscellaneous Incident but do not see it on here. Is that on another layer of report, or am I misinformed about the name of that category?

911 calls for service  has been removed from

The Significant Event Log has been removed from

Checking the number of calls for service which are written off as “Miscellaneous Incidents” would be another way to check on whether calls that are crimes are designated as such, and in the correct categories.  However, there seems to be absolutely no way to check this—at least none that is known yet, without listening to each and every 311 call, 911 call, Crime Reporting Call, and reviewing every officer’s log book and then comparing the Citizens’ experiences with the write-ups for those incidents (if there even are any).  The FBI requires that there is a permanent record upon receipt of a complaint or call for service, which includes the record of the alleged offense.  (See below)

Why can’t anyone access these records without making it past the lineup of badged Public Affairs Officers at Police Headquarters and their Attorneys that we are paying for?
According to the FBI, incorrect data can affect administration of law enforcement grants.  Another issue to consider is that if statistics are incorrectly showing crime to be lower than it is, that would show a need for law enforcement dollars to be less than what actually exists, causing a rebound increase in crime. 

Here are the records issues laid out directly from :
Guidelines for Records Management
An efficient record-keeping system that provides the information needed for generating UCR data should meet the following guidelines:
1.     Permanent documentation of each crime is made immediately upon receipt of a complaint or call for service. All reports of thefts and attempted thefts are included, regardless of the value of property involved.
2.     The staff or headquarters has control over the receipt of each complaint or call for service to ensure each is promptly recorded and accurately tabulated.
3.     Documentation is made in each case showing fully the details of the offense as alleged by the complainant and as disclosed by the investigation. An effective follow-up system is used to see that reports are promptly submitted in all cases.
4.     All reports are checked to see that the crime classification conforms to the uniform classifi­cation of the offenses. That is, all offenses reported to the UCR Program, regardless of what the offense is called at the local, state, tribal, or federal level, must conform to the UCR classification of offenses.
5.     The offense reports on crimes cleared by arrest or exceptional means are noted as cleared.
6.     Arrest records are complete, with special care being taken to show the final disposition of the charge.
7.     Records are centralized; records and statistical reports are closely supervised by the adminis­trator; periodic inspections are made to ensure strict compliance with the rules and regula­tions of the local agency relative to records and reports.
8.     Statistical reports conform in all respects to the UCR standards and regulations.

From  “Your 911 call will be one of more than 68,000 answered each month by a Telecommunicator in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.”  That would multiply to 816,000 per year, just from 911.  Then:   “CharMeck 311 has an annual call volume of 1.7 million, answering citizen inquiries on utility and tax bills, along with customer service requests ranging from garbage pick-up, park reservations and street repair to animal care, and non-emergency police calls. CharMeck 311 serves both the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.”   Granted, this includes numerous calls that are not police calls, but some percentage are.  It was not possible to find any volume of calls handled by the Crime Reporting Unit, or how many more are walk-ups to police officers.  Adding all the various crime report types above together, though, it seems that 360,743 provided by the CMPD Attorney does not accurately represent the number of reports coming in about crime, even if some are redundant.

The most disconcerting part is the removal of the call data from the web site is that it came the exact moment that the reported crime data takes a nose dive… and the defensive (or offensive?) position taken by the Chief, his officers, his attorneys, and the City when a citizen asks about it. 

Mayor McCrory should have gone farther with his questions.  Mayor Foxx and the Council should get to the bottom of this now.  We are paying a staff of analysts who have the data.  We are paying a records division who has the data.  There are more on staff who could provide clarity, in addition to police officers.  We shouldn’t keep paying the CMPD attorneys to keep it under wraps or to order Public Affairs Captains to demand to run interference for the Chief or the City on public information.

More information on the numbers will be in

P.S. There is still no response from any City of Charlotte/CMPD official explaining how much public money is going toward Officer William D. Grahams’ Great Balls of Fire Foundation, which receives donations for the CMPD Blue Hornets Baseball Team—or the full accounting of expenses, donors, and donations requested.  Not one.     

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