Jun 14, 2022 - News

Detroit reports FBI crime stats, bucking trend of other cities

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

The Detroit Police Department reported all of its 2021 crime data to the FBI even as 40% of law enforcement agencies nationwide failed to do so, according to data provided to Axios through a partnership with The Marshall Project.

Why it matters: Detroit bucked a national trend that will result in a data gap, making it harder to analyze crime trends and fact-check claims from politicians in the 2022 election cycle.

  • "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 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 to the voluntary program in 2021.

Between the lines: Detroit's reputation as a violent city can be affected when departments in other cities don't report and are omitted from crime rankings.

  • Detroit police declined an interview request about FBI crime stats.

State of play: Michigan has been using the current FBI reporting system since 2005, a spokesperson for Michigan State Police tells Axios, so the state's reporting has been FBI compliant.

  • Monroe is the largest city in the state to not report data. The city is still working on integrating its crime-reporting system with the state's setup.
  • "We have all the data, we just don't have a way to submit it at the moment," Monroe police administrative commander John Wall tells Axios.

The big picture: 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.

The bottom line: Until all other big U.S. cities are compliant with the FBI's new crime stats system, any nationwide public safety ranking has to be met with skepticism.


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