Police in Dallas – Fort Worth Get Papers Graded: Low Crime Clearance Rates for North Texas
Today, the video of a South Carolina police officer shooting a man running away from a traffic stop has gone viral, and the officer has been arrested for murder. If you haven’t seen the footage, you can watch it on YouTube (it’s pretty graphic). For more videos of excessive force by law enforcement around the country, check out my Google Plus page where I have shared several more of these excessive force police videos. Sad to say, they seem to pop up online with great regularity.
Which, for everyone here in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, brings the concern about our own local law enforcement and how much we should all be worried about something like this happening here in our part of the country. Right?
Well, maybe everyone here in Dallas County and Tarrant County and the rest of North Texas might be a bit more interested in another bit of information that was released recently — the “crime clearance rates” for various police departments around here.
FBI Uniform Crime Reports
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) keeps tabs on arrests and convictions made all over the country and then compiles that raw data in statistics and yearly reports on various departments’ “crime clearance rates.” The reports are called the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for the year, and they’re available to the public.
Except that the FBI reports are not separated by individual police department, which means if you go read the Uniform Crime Report, you cannot find the number of cleared cases involving burglaries in Dallas, for instance. Enter National Public Radio (NPR), which asked for that community-specific breakdown and now has released an online tool that does allow you to go to their site and find out the crime clearance rate, by various types of crimes, for local police departments going back three (3) years.
NPR Research Tool
Now, NPR has some caveats:
1. This data cannot be considered as totally accurate because the underlying crime data is incomplete (not all cities provided information, for example) and some of the information received by the FBI had mistakes in it;
2. The FBI tallies a crime in the year it was cleared by law enforcement, not the year it was committed, which means that it’s possible for a police department in their report to have a clearance rate over 100% for a particular type of crime (not that our police need to worry about that); and
3. They didn’t include any data for sexual assault cases — seems reports of rape are considered to be too unreliable by the experts. (Gotta think that the University of Virginia / Rolling Stone scandal is having an impact….)
How Did Local Police Fare in the Crime Clearance Report Card? Not So Good.
So, how well do our local police departments in clearing crimes, i.e., in making arrests after a crime has been reported with that arrest resulting in a conviction? You may be really, really surprised.
Using the NPR Online Tool for FBI Uniform Crime Report Clearance Rates, we found out the following:
2011: out of 8315 new crimes, 3129 were cleared for a clearance rate of 38%
2012: out of 8350 new crimes, 3320 were cleared for a clearance rate of 40%
2013: out of 8293 new crimes, 3033 were cleared for a clearance rate of 37%
Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter
2011: out of 133 new crimes, 86 were cleared for a clearance rate of 65%
2012: out of 154 new crimes, 89 were cleared for a clearance rate of 58%
2013: out of 143 new crimes, 86 were cleared for a clearance rate of 60%
2011: out of 4066 new crimes, 761 were cleared for a clearance rate of 19%
2012: out of 4093 new crimes, 707 were cleared for a clearance rate of 17%
2013: out of 4202 new crimes, 677 were cleared for a clearance rate of 16%
2011: out of 4548 new crimes, 1649 were cleared for a clearance rate of 36%
2012: out of 4497 new crimes, 1701 were cleared for a clearance rate of 38%
2013 : out of 4414 new crimes, 1705 were cleared for a clearance rate of 39%
Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter
2011: out of 51 new crimes, 31 were cleared for a clearance rate of 61%
2012: out of 46 new crimes, 37 were cleared for a clearance rate of 80%
2013: out of 49 new crimes, 42 were cleared for a clearance rate of 86%
2011: out of 1267 new crimes, 286 were cleared for a clearance rate of 23%
2012: out of 1280 new crimes, 324 were cleared for a clearance rate of 25%
2013: out of 1257 new crimes, 315 were cleared for a clearance rate of 25%
Spend some time roaming through the report, and you’ll find that it is not just our North Texas area where police aren’t making arrests, much less prosecutors getting convictions, in most major crimes (think homicide) — this is true for most of the country.
Many crimes are committed that go unpunished, especially things like burglaries and petty offenses. In Fort Worth during 2013, for example, there was only a 17% chance that a burglary would result in an arrest and conviction.
What Does This Mean For Those Arrested?
Which means that here in Dallas and Fort Worth and the surrounding area, lots of criminals can proceed with confidence because they are well aware of the likelihood of being arrested, charged, and convicted of a crime in their neighborhood.
It also means that when arrests are made, the police and prosecutors are going to work hard to get those things to stick — and criminal defense lawyers are needed on the scene as soon as possible to represent the accused in these cases.
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