Experts: St.L. Errors Barely Affected Crime Rate


A panel that studied St. Louis police crime reporting said the department had made mistakes but had not tried to fool the public, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The committee said officers should not have used informal “crime memos” in place of incident reports in cases in which they doubted a crime had been committed. The memos languished in file drawers; reports would have been counted in crime statistics and triggered further investigations. The panel said use of the memos had minimal impact on last year’s crime totals. After the Post-Dispatch asked about crime memos, Chief Joe Mokwa ordered officers to stop writing them and to convert to official police reports the 485 memos written last year. Detectives then reviewed the cases to see if charges were possible. Police have sought criminal charges against suspects in at least two sexual crimes that originally were described in memos and filed away.

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist with the University of Missouri at St. Louis who analyzed rape numbers for the Post-Dispatch, found that St. Louis should have had about 214 rapes in 2003. The department reported 81. The department began counting dramatically more rapes beginning about the time the newspaper inquired about the rape total in mid-November. Scott Decker, a University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist, reviewed 475 crime memos written from Jan. 1, 2003, to May 31, 2004. If incident reports had been written instead of memos for all major crimes, the crime rate would have increased only by one-third of 1 percent, he said.


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