Jun 14, 2022 - News

Columbus reports FBI crime stats, bucking trend of other cities

Photo: Paul Vernon/AFP via Getty Images

The Columbus Division of Police and Franklin County Sheriff's Office reported all of their 2021 crime data to the FBI even as many other agencies in Ohio and nationwide failed to do so according to data provided to Axios from a partnership with The Marshall Project.

Why it matters: The region's two biggest law enforcement agencies bucked a trend that experts say makes it harder to analyze crime stats and fact-check claims politicians make about crime.

The backdrop: Last year, the FBI retired its nearly century-old national crime data collection program and switched to a new system, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which gathers more specific information on each incident.

  • Even though the FBI announced the transition years ago and the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help local police make the switch, nearly 7,000 of the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies did not send crime data.

The big picture: Nearly 40% of law enforcement agencies around the country, including departments in New York City and Los Angeles, did not submit any data to the FBI's voluntary program in 2021, per nonprofit criminal justice watchdog The Marshall Project.

Zoom in: Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio State University and most suburban police departments in the area submitted a full year's worth of data, among just 38% of Ohio departments to do so.

Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios Visuals

Yes, but: Three cities Hilliard, Bexley and Westerville only submitted eight months of data, though these omissions were not necessarily out of negligence.

  • In Hilliard's case, a city spokesperson tells Axios a change in records management software is to blame. Hilliard plans to eventually submit data for the remaining four months.

Meanwhile, Marysville in neighboring Union County did not report any data.

  • The small Franklin County villages of Brice, Harrisburg and Valleyview, with a combined population of just over 1,000, also did not report data.
  • Hamilton, in the southwestern corner of Ohio, was the largest police department in the state to not report 2021 crime data.

What they're saying: "It's going to be really hard for policymakers to look at what crime looks like in their own community and compare it to similar communities," Jacob Kaplan, a criminologist at Princeton University, told The Marshall Project.

​​The bottom line: While some departments may be withholding crime records, several across the nation tell Axios reporters that they've been stymied by technical issues that they're still working out.

  • Regardless of the reasons, the data deficit makes research and policy development complicated.
Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios Visuals
Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios Visuals
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