Jun 14, 2022 - News

Philadelphia police under-reported 2021 crime data to the FBI

Months of 2021 FBI crime data reported in Pennsylvania, by agency
Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios Visuals

Philadelphia's Police Department failed to fully report its 2021 crime data to the FBI, making it part of the roughly 60% of law enforcement agencies nationwide that gave incomplete data or no data at all, according to data provided to Axios from a partnership with The Marshall Project.

Why it matters: Philly is part of a trend that will result in a data gap that makes it harder to analyze crime data and fact-check claims politicians make about crime.

  • A rough estimate of 2.1 million crimes in the U.S. will go uncounted due to the lack of reporting, The Marshall Project estimated. For example, Philadelphia's homicides, which hit a historic high in 2021, according to city data, won't be fully captured in the federal data.

Between the lines: The lack of reported crime data will make it more difficult for officials, police and researchers to create effective policies around public safety, spot trends and deploy resources, John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, told Axios.

  • "The more detailed the data, the more effective our police can be," he said. "When we look back at 2021 numbers, they're not going to be particularly useful."

Driving the news: Philadelphia police submitted only nine months' worth of 2021 crime data to the FBI's new National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

  • Last year, the FBI retired its nearly century-old national crime data collection program and switched to the new system, which gathers more specific information on each incident.

The big picture: Nearly 40% of the roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. did not submit any 2021 data to the voluntary FBI program. That's a massive increase from the 15% of agencies that did not report data for 2020.

  • Pennsylvania saw some of the lowest 2021 crime data reporting rates in the country, alongside California and Florida.
  • Only 31 out of roughly 1,500 agencies in Pennsylvania reported any 2021 crime data to the FBI program — a rate of 2%. The State Police and Pittsburgh Bureau of Police were among the agencies that failed to report any 2021 data.

Yes, but: That's up from 2020, when 22 agencies in the state submitted crime data, according to the FBI's website.

Of note: The Philadelphia Police Department was awarded $3.8 million in federal funds, starting in 2016, to upgrade its outdated crime reporting and data management system, hire staff and conduct training to reduce barriers for participating in the FBI's new program, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

What they're saying: PPD was unable to collect NIBRS crime data until its new reporting systems went live on April 1, 2021, Sgt. Eric Gripp told Axios.

  • There was a "significant project delay" to update its legacy systems to collect crime data, which was exacerbated by the pandemic, he said.
  • "This will have no impact on the Police Department's relationship with the community," Gripp said, noting the department's crime data is publicly available on the city's OpenDataPhilly website.

Myles Snyder, a spokesperson for the state police, told Axios that a "technical issue" initially prevented the FBI from receiving the department's data.

  • The state police are expected to resubmit its complete 2021 data this month, along with this year's data, he said.

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