Nov 29, 2022 - News

California is second 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

California had the second lowest percentage of law enforcement agencies turn over crime data to the FBI last year.

The big picture: The estimated number of violent crimes in the U.S. decreased slightly in 2021 from 2020, according to the FBI — but the data is incomplete because 40% of law enforcement agencies nationwide failed to report their crime statistics.

  • Experts say the data gap makes it harder to analyze crime trends and fact check claims politicians make about crime, the Marshall Project's Weihua Li reports.

Context: The FBI's annual data set is the foremost way to understand how crime is changing across the U.S., measuring trends like how many murders or rapes took place last year or total people arrested on an annual basis.

By the numbers: An Axios analysis of FBI data released earlier this year found that 2% of California's law enforcement agencies turned in crime data.

Zoom in: None of San Francisco’s seven law enforcement agencies reported crime data to the FBI in 2021.

  • Yes, but: 100% of law enforcement agencies in Connecticut, Delaware, North Dakota and Vermont submitted their crime data to the FBI.

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 a new reporting system the FBI introduced in January 2021.

  • Lenore Anderson, founder and president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, said many agencies still use pen and paper to track crime and input data.

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


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