Nov 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Florida, California worst in nation on FBI crime reporting

States with the lowest share of law enforcement agencies who reported 2021 crime data to the FBI
Data: FBI; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Florida and California had the lowest percentages of law enforcement agencies turning over crime data to the FBI last year.

Why it matters: National violent crime data in 2021 was severely compromised because around 40% of law enforcement agencies nationwide failed to report their crime data. Two of the most populous states were a big part of the problem.

  • This data reporting failure came amid anxiety about rising crime in some cities — a major issue in midterms.

By the numbers: An Axios analysis of FBI data released earlier this year found that only two law enforcement agencies out of Florida's 757 submitted 2021 crime data to the FBI. That's only 0.3% of the state's law enforcement agencies.

  • Only 2% of California's law enforcement agencies turned in crime data.
  • Less than 3% of Pennsylvania's agencies and only 12% of Maryland's, submitted data.
  • Around 21% of agencies in New York and 31% in New Jersey turned over data to the FBI.

The other side: 100% of law enforcement agencies in Connecticut, Delaware, North Dakota and Vermont submitted their crime data to the FBI.

  • Texas, the nation's second most populous state, had one of the best reporting percentages. The Axios analysis found 84% of the Lone Star State's agencies submitted crime data.

Between the lines: The FBI's annual data set is the country's foremost way to understand how crime across the U.S. is changing, measuring things like how many murders or rapes took place last year or how many people were arrested.

  • The estimated number of violent crimes in the U.S. decreased slightly in 2021, according to statistics released by the FBI — but the data is incomplete.
  • Experts say the data gap makes it harder to analyze crime trends and fact check claims politicians make about crime, reports The Marshall Project's Weihua Li.

The intrigue: Art Acevedo, a former Houston and Miami police chief, told Axios the lack of reporting is likely a technological challenge for local agencies to get on the new system.

The California Attorney General's Office said in the statement that the state's Department of Justice has been developing the California Incident Based Reporting System repository over the last several years in line with the FBI's transition to the new reporting system.

  • "We are now in the process of working to certify the law enforcement agencies who are able to upgrade their record management systems and successfully submit data to CIBRS."

The bottom line: Unless states require police and sheriff's departments to submit crime data to the FBI at higher rates, the nation won't be able to recognize trends around crime and set policies.

Go deeper: The limited promise of crime data

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