Milwaukee Misreports Assaults to FBI, Understating Violent Crime


When Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn touted the city’s fourth-straight year of falling crime in February, hundreds of beatings, stabbings and child abuse cases were missing from the count, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. More than 500 incidents since 2009 were misreported to the FBI as minor assaults and not included in the city’s violent crime rate. That tally is based on a review of cases that resulted in charges – only about one-fifth of all reported crimes. The misreported cases found in 2011 alone are enough that Flynn would have been announcing a 1.1 percent increase in violent crime in February, instead of a 2.3 percent decline from the reported 2010 numbers, which also include errors.

At the request of the Journal Sentinel, FBI crime experts reviewed dozens of incidents and confirmed that they should have been labeled as aggravated assaults. In addition to the more than 500 misreported incidents, the investigation found at least 800 more that fit the same pattern but could not be confirmed through available public records. Criminologists reviewed the Journal Sentinel’s findings and said they showed a pattern of misreporting that has helped drive down the city’s crime rate. “Misreporting is cheating the public,” said Michael Maltz, criminology professor at Ohio State University. He called the Journal Sentinel findings just “the tip of the iceberg.”

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