FBI Cut Crime Data In Annual Report for 2016

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The FBI’s 2016 Crime in the United States report, the first annual compilation released in the Trump administration, contains about 70 percent fewer data tables than the 2015 version did, a removal that could affect analysts’ understanding of crime trends, reports FiveThirtyEight.com. The change comes after consecutive years in which violent crime rose nationally. It limits access to high-quality crime data that could help inform solutions. Published under the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the report contains national data on homicides, violent crimes, arrests, clearances and police employment. Among the data missing from the 2016 report is information on arrests, the circumstances of homicides (such as the relationships between victims and perpetrators), and the only national estimate of annual gang murders. The FBI said the UCR program had “streamlined the 2016 edition.” Changes to the report typically go through a body called the FBI’s Advisory Policy Board (APB). This time they did not.

The FBI attributed the changes to “the number of times a user actually viewed the tables on the internet.” “To me it’s shocking that they made these decisions to publish that many fewer tables and they didn’t make the decision with the APB,” said James Nolan, who worked at the UCR for five years and now teaches at West Virginia University. In the last year, the UCR received 3,045,789 visitors. The removal of data means there is less available on a perennial focus of Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions: violent crime. The data missing is mostly about arrests and homicides. There were 51 tables of arrest data in the 2015 report, and there are only seven in the 2016 report. Data about clearance rates was covered in four tables in 2015 but just one in 2016. The expanded offense data, such as the type of weapon used or the location of crimes, went from 23 tables in 2015 to 6 in 2016.

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