The Transylvania Times -

By Lenora Carver
Staff Writer 

Crime Figures Don’t Match

 

April 19, 2011



The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) said there were two main reasons why the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office’s crime numbers didn’t match the numbers reported by the state in 2009.

One reason was the Sheriff’s Office switched to a new computer program during 2009 to compile its crime data, said SBI Agent Tim Parker.

The SBI missed one month’s worth of data when the switch occurred.

“At the time of the (final crime statistic) report, we hadn’t had the time to fix that month,” said Parker.

The data was added later.

Another reason for the discrepancy, Parker said, is that “data generated at local levels is a little different than what is put into (the state’s) reporting program.”

Every year, individual law enforcement agencies report their inner office crime numbers to the N.C. Department of Justice through its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program.

The program monitors the total criminal index, which is composed of violent crimes, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property crimes, such as burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

But the UCR program, Parker said, looks at the national definition of a crime rather than a state’s definition of a crime.

So, when the Sheriff’s Office reports a particular incident as one type of criminal activity, according to North Carolina law, the UCR program might not recognize the incident as the same type of criminal activity, according to national law.

Another factor the UCR considers is a “hierarchy of crime.”

For instance, Parker said, if an individual were to rape and murder someone, the UCR would count the incident only as a murder.

“It’s just the nature of the program,” said Parker.

In almost all cases, Parker said, the UCR’s report of criminal activity would almost always be lower than the Sheriff’s Office’s report or any law enforcement agency.

In a recent story in The Transylvania Times, it showed the UCR program had reported 88 fewer crimes in 2009 than what the Sheriff’s Office had reported, prompting questions about the discrepancy.

The program missed crimes, such as one rape, six aggravated assaults and 44 larcenies. Parker said a law enforcement agency’s inner office numbers would always be more specific than the UCR. At this time, Parker said, state officials only have the UCR program to work with, but they continue to work and try to achieve a more accurate view of crime.

Sheriff David Mahoney said he “has never been a fan of statistics.”

“They can be manipulated depending on what you want to prove or disprove with them,” he said.

Mahoney said he relies more on his office’s numbers than those released by the state.

“We use the raw numbers because that’s the best information we can use to modify our crime prevention efforts,” said Mahoney. “It doesn’t do us any good to use numbers that are artificially inflated or deflated, so that is why we use our internal raw numbers to modify our crime prevention correspondingly.”

 
 

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