The Purpose Of Crime Stats

by Dish Staff

Dara Lind reveals it:

There’s often talk about the need for better statistics on officer-involved homicides as a matter of public transparency. But that’s not the primary reason that police departments collect statistics. The ostensible purpose of collecting statistics, for most police departments, is to guide internal strategy and help them figure out where to allocate resources. Furthermore, police use crime stats to look better in the eyes of the public, or on a federal grant application. That means they can be skewed, intentionally or not, by what will make the cops look best. That’s certainly true in the case of officer-involved shootings, but it’s true of other types of crimes as well.

Patrick Ball of the Human Rights Data Analysis Group says that cops want to record crimes that they know they can solve. Unsolved homicides look bad for police departments — and might hurt their ability to get federal funding. And “for non-fatal violations,” where there’s no body for the cops to explain away, underreporting is “much, much worse.”