Monday, October 29, 2001

Ohio wants crime stats united

Agencies use different systems

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Comparing crime statistics across cities in Ohio is difficult — if not impossible — because law enforcement departments aren't required to report violent crime or property offenses to a central agency or define the crimes the same way.

        The state is trying to change that by having law enforcement agencies use a newer crime-reporting program.

        “There are significant holes in reporting so there's no way to analyze crime data for the entire state,” said Stephanie McCarty, spokeswoman for the Office of Criminal Justice Services.

        The state is trying to get all 944 law enforcement agencies in Ohio to collect and report crimes using the FBI's National-Incident Based Reporting System.

        Many Ohio cities use the FBI's older program, the Uniform Crime Report, or don't report their crimes to the federal government at all.

        The FBI started NIBRS in 1989 to eventually replace the UCR, Ms. McCarty said.

        Ohio is one of only 21 states that uses NIBRS.

        “It's actually a better program and we're hoping at some point to have NIBRS data from everyone,” said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.

        A look at the FBI's 2000 UCR, released last week, shows the limitations of UCR data for Ohio cities.

        Of Ohio's 11 metropolitan statistical areas, there were statistics for only Dayton-Springfield, Hamilton-Middletown, Lima, Mansfield and Toledo.

        Mr. Bresson said Ohio's largest metropolitan statistical areas, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Akron-Canton and Youngstown-Warren, probably were not included in the 2000 UCR because they did not report their crimes or they used a different reporting program, such as NIBRS.

        “We just don't have the data for them — period,” Mr. Bresson said.

        In Cincinnati's case, the city uses NIBRS and, therefore, wouldn't have been included in the report, said police Lt. Stephen Kramer.

        The city switched to the newer system in 1997 so that officers could quickly pull out statistics to possibly predict crime trends or better deploy personnel.

        “Data is something that helps us do our job if used right. If everyone's in it (NIBRS), that would help us track criminals if they go out of our city,” Lt. Kramer said. “It would be very difficult, however, to sit here and say you can absolutely compare yourself to other cities.”

        More than 17,000 city, county and state law enforcement agencies nationwide voluntarily participate in the UCR. The agencies report crimes in their jurisdiction by classifying them into a few categories, including murders, rapes, burglaries and vehicle thefts.

        With NIBRS, however, the agencies can divide the crimes into more specific categories and the state can collect the information and double-check its accuracy before forwarding it to the FBI, Ms. McCarty said.

        Cities that don't report their crimes say they don't have enough manpower or cost to do the work, she said.


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