St. Louis police officials told Chief Dan Isom months ago that the department’s revamped method of reporting car break-ins could lower crime statistics and lead to criticism of the department, reports the city’s Post-Dispatch. In an April memo, Lt. Col. Paul Nocchiero told Isom that the “change in methodology” – counting just one crime when several break-ins happen within the same time and place – could make the department appear as if it is hiding crime in a “rising crime category that we, as of yet, cannot get our arms around.” Nocchiero warned that unless the department issued a “heads up” to the change, it could be prone to the same type of criticism it faced after the Post-Dispatch disclosed in 2005 that it was recording some crimes in memos and keeping them off the books.
But Isom did not take Nocchiero’s advice. Last week, the Post-Dispatch disclosed that the city had recently begun counting certain property crimes that happen close together as one incident even when there are multiple victims. It’s an FBI standard for crime statistics referred to as the “time and place rule.” Most police departments, including St. Louis County, use it for car break-ins. In previous years, city police counted car break-ins by the number of victims involved. The newspaper reported that the department failed to alert the public about the change while touting a steady decrease in crime rates. After the story was published, Isom told reporters he was not trying to fool the city about crime rates.