Jun 14, 2022 - News

Virginia law enforcement among best in nation for reporting crime stats

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

Virginia law enforcement agencies performed better than most of their counterparts across the country in reporting annual crime statistics to the FBI last year, according to data provided to Axios through a partnership with The Marshall Project.

Driving the news: Nearly 40% of law enforcement agencies around the country, including departments in New York City and Los Angeles, did not submit any data in 2021.

Yes, but: About 97% of police agencies in Virginia reported their crime data to the FBI last year, according to The Marshall Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan U.S. criminal justice watchdog.

  • Only two other states — Minnesota and Oklahoma — also reported virtually all of their crime stats.

Why it matters: The lack of data nationally makes it harder to analyze crime trends. And it could be exploited by politicians in midterm election campaigns already dominated by public fear over a rise in violent crime.

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

What happened: It turns out Virginia was more than two decades ahead of the curve when it comes to the data reporting transition that has tripped up agencies elsewhere.

  • The state began transitioning to the national incident-based reporting format in 1995 and completed the change in 2000, Keon Turner, who manages data analysis and reporting efforts for the Virginia State Police, told Axios.

The bottom line: Reporting lapses elsewhere will still make it difficult to understand how crime rates in Virginia fit into nationwide patterns.

  • "It's not going to do the national debate over crime levels or crime solutions any good at all," Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told The Marshall Project.

Go deeper via The Marshall Project


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