FBI crime statistics, critical to a city’s reputation, need more scrutiny by investigative journalists, says Ben Poston of the Los Angeles Times. Some local police departments have manipulated the numbers, often through incorrect classification of robbery, burglary and aggravated assault. Reporting crime statistics to the FBI is voluntary, and some police officials have been willing to “openly flaunt” the system, Poston said.
Poston, who investigated police statistics for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before moving to the L.A. Times, spoke this week at the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference in San Antonio. Another panelist, Steve Thompson of the Dallas Morning News, examined claims by Dallas police and city officials that crime was declining and found that aggravated assaults were being recorded as simple assaults. Assaults make up a large percentage of serious crime, so that statistic is particular important, he said.