Jun 14, 2022 - News

D.C. and Prince George's County police submit incomplete 2021 crime data

Photo: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The District’s police department failed to fully report its 2021 crime data to the FBI, making it part of the 60% of law enforcement agencies nationwide that submitted incomplete data or no data at all, according to data given to Axios from a partnership with The Marshall Project.

  • The data lapse also occurred in neighboring Prince George’s County — which like D.C. saw a spike in murders and violent crime last year.

Why it matters, via The Marshall Project: The Washington region is part of a national data gap that experts say will make it harder to analyze crime data and fact-check claims politicians make about crime.

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

The backdrop, via The Marshall Project: 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, which gathers more specific information on each incident.

  • Even though the FBI announced the transition in 2015 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.

Meanwhile, Montgomery, Arlington, and Loudoun counties and the city of Alexandria fully reported their 2021 crime data.

What happened: In D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department says it switched from the old data collection reporting system to the new one on Aug. 1, 2021. But, since the new reporting system requires a full year of data in order to be published, D.C.’s data from 2021 is not available, the department says.

The Prince George’s County Police Department said a technical issue led to its data lapse.

  • The department said it began reporting crime data to the new FBI system in 2019 using a file format that was not compatible with Maryland’s own reporting system.
  • The county instead reported directly to the FBI, but says it submitted half of its 2021 data after the FBI’s deadline for inclusion in its annual report.

What’s next: D.C. police said its crime data would be published quarterly by the FBI starting this year.


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