One woman said she had a gun stolen. Another reported that young men stole her purse from her sister’s fenced backyard. A man said intruders broke into his shoe repair shop, pried open his cash register and fled with money. The Miami Herald says Broward County, Fla., sheriff’s deputies labeled one as a “police information” call, the second as “lost or missing property” and the third as vandalism. “It’s not vandalism. It’s burglary,” said the victim, who was surprised to learn from The Herald that the incident was recorded as vandalism.
A Herald review of records, along with dozens of interviews, suggests that downgrading was common, and that many who reported thefts and assaults to deputies were wasting their time. Their complaints went on the books as “lost or missing property,” suspicious incidents or “information calls.” Experts, including former Miami Police Chief Kenneth Harms, told the Herald that routine incidents like thefts and assaults are the easiest to under-report if officers are intent on keeping the crime rate artificially low. Broward’s statistics show a striking trend in the past 17 years. While calls to 911 have more than doubled, the agency has reported fewer actual crimes.