More than a year ago, the Dallas Morning News set out to tell readers how many crimes are reported neighborhood by neighborhood. The newspaper requested information from the Dallas Police Department databases of crime incidents and arrests, which are public information under Texas law. The department has yet to completely fill the newspaper’s request The News says that what it has obtained through protracted negotiations is riddled with inconsistencies.
For example, police data show that the number of reported rapes in Dallas in 2003 was anywhere from 546 to 658. In September, the newspaper received a database that was missing thousands of records. A recent efficiency study found that the police planning and crime analysis unit “focuses primarily on reporting data and handling special projects. Relatively little effort, however, is devoted to using the information that is gathered to develop operational plans to improve department performance.” The city’s new police chief, David Kunkle, said he hopes to make better use of the crime data the department gathers. Crime data help ensure accountability, said Marcus Martin, a criminologist and director of research for the Foundation for Community Empowerment, a nonprofit organization focused on improving Dallas’ low-income neighborhoods.