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August 10, 2023

America Has a Crime Reporting Problem

By Salam Fatohi

Tracking crime statistics – and more importantly, whether or not crime is rising or falling in the United States – is getting harder to do. That’s because nearly a third of America’s cities are no longer reporting crime statistics to the FBI.

This is more than just a problem for policymakers looking for data to address the cities most in need of assistance. It also means that some policymakers are demanding bad policy because they’re relying on incomplete data.

The Marshall Project reported that 31 percent of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. failed to report crime data to the FBI’s national database after transitioning to a new data collection system, according to the latest statistics from the FBI. That’s a slight improvement from 2021, when 40 percent of law enforcement agencies didn’t report crime data. Still, it’s a glaring blind spot, especially when that data is missing from some of the largest metro areas dealing with rampant, out-of-control crime.

Many of those cities also happen to be led by the loudest voices calling for gun control, defunding police and soft-on-crime policies. The trifecta means that gun control politicians are missing a third of the crime picture yet demanding 100 percent of the gun control. Typical behavior for zealots who favor government control over individual freedom.

Biggest Offenders

Just 24 percent of New York’s police departments sent their crime data to the FBI. That’s a failing grade in anyone’s book. That includes New York City’s Police Department, along with neighboring Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester County police. Just 141 of the 583 New York police agencies reported data in 2022.

Pennsylvania was worse, with just nine percent of police departments reporting crime data to the FBI. Only 126 of the 1,392 police agencies reported their statistics. Missing were Pittsburgh, Allentown and Scranton.

Maryland police agencies reported just 38 percent of the time, with 65 of the 170 police departments failing to send the FBI crucial crime data. Departments surrounding Washington, D.C., which has been plagued by crime, didn’t submit any data, including Anne Arundel County and Howard County near Baltimore. Other surrounding communities including Montgomery County and Prince George’s County submitted just two months of data.

California came in with just 49 percent – less than half – of police agencies sending crime statistics to the FBI. The Marshall Project reported that 44 states and the District of Columbia had higher reporting rates than California. Only 356 of the 721 police agencies in the Golden State submitted crime data to the FBI. Missing from that list were reports from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, San Fransisco, San Jose, Oakland, Riverside, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and both the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Office and Police Department.

Illinois crime data submitted to the FBI in 2022 was only slightly better, with 52 percent of police agencies reporting. There, 464 of the 885 law enforcement agencies submitted data. Chicago’s Police Department fully reported but neighboring Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Du Page County Sheriff’s Office didn’t report any data. Cook County Sheriff’s Office reported just one month’s worth of data.

New Jersey tied Illinois for percentage of law enforcement agencies reporting data at 52 percent. Just 301 of the 574 law enforcement agencies sent the FBI crime data for 2022. Paterson, Woodbridge, Edison, Clifton, Trenton and Camden Police Departments didn’t send the FBI any crime data in 2022.

To be fair, the worst was Florida, with just eight percent of law enforcement agencies reporting their 2022 crime data to the FBI. That represents only 49 of the 633 police agencies in the Sunshine State. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office didn’t report any crime data to the FBI that year. Neither did Orlando’s Police Department or Fort Lauderdale Police Department.

Common Threads

Apart from Florida, there’s a common thread among the states with the lowest reporting of crime data to the FBI. These are also states that host cities with headline-grabbing criminal episodes and public officials reluctant to crack down on criminals. They aren’t shy, though, in calling for gun control.

New York’s Gov. Kathy Hochul was all too willing to sign into law a package of gun control bills after New York’s restrictive concealed carry laws were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bruen decision. Those laws are even more confusing and crippling than before, including measures zoning off entire swaths of the state as “sensitive places” to deny permit holders from carrying concealed firearms. The state plans on enforcing ammunition background checks too which cannot be completed by the FBI. Meanwhile, George Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg admitted that crime is so bad in New York City that he’s afraid to ride the subway.

Pennsylvania’s Gov. Josh Shapiro has never been shy about demanding more gun control. Yet, he’s been silent about his own failures to address rampant crime when he was the Commonwealth’s attorney general. Instead of demanding tougher action from soft-on-crime district attorneys like District Attorney Larry Krasner, he closed ranks with him demanding gun control but is silent on criminals walking free.

Maryland’s Gov. Wes Moore recently took office and signed laws restricting where concealed carry permit holders could be armed and raised fees for those permits. He said at the time, “In Maryland, we refuse to say these problems are too big or too tough. We will act, and that’s exactly what today represents.”

On crime, though, state lawmakers are still going soft, even proposing a bill earlier this year that would block felony murder charges for anyone under 25.

California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would gut the right of the people to keep and bear arms. He’s still blaming guns while residents in San Francisco and Los Angeles are being crushed by criminals.

Illinois’ Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law early this year to ban the most commonly-owned semiautomatic rifle in America – the AR-15 – blaming guns for crime there. That law is being challenged by NSSF. He’s expected to sign a new law banning First Amendment-protected Free Speech by banning firearm ads that might be attractive to minors, despite the blatant unconstitutionality of that idea.

Gov. Pritzker is quick to blame the firearm industry and attack Second Amendment rights, along with First Amendment rights. Criminals, though, are a different matter. He signed a law, which was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court, to end cash bail in the Land of Lincoln. Critics warn that this puts dangerous and violent criminals back on the streets.

New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy attempted to throttle firearm sales during the COVID-19 pandemic until he was forced by the courts to relent. He signed laws to allow frivolous lawsuits against the firearm industry for crimes committed by remote third parties. That law was challenged by NSSF and enjoined while the case is heard.

The first step in correcting problems is to identify the problems. When cities fail to report their crime statistics, it leads to a false sense of progress. The crime isn’t going away, just the reporting. These politicians aren’t solving problems by ignoring missing reports to the FBI. They’re only sweeping the problems under their rug of gun control demands.

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