The Letter of the Week from Gary Hankins of Cumberland, “The FBI may not be at fault,” was selected by the Times-News editorial board as the best letter of those that appeared during the week of Dec. 29-Jan 4. It was published Jan. 1.
Note: Selection of the letter of the week is based on writing competence and the ability of the writer to get his or her point across. It is not based on whether the editorial board agrees with the writer.
Hankins and our other Letter of the Week writers receive canvas tote bags embossed with the Letter of the Week logo. Here is an edited-for-length version of his letter:
I read with interest the article in the Dec. 30 edition that reported on the significant differences between the number of reported crimes in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and those reported by city, county and state law enforcement agencies in Maryland. (See: “Wrong Crime Data ...,” Page 1A.)
I retired from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department after serving as a public information officer and president of the Fraternal Order of Police. The accuracy of the FBI’s statistics were of great interest to me in both of my positions.
The system is voluntary, in that each agency provides the FBI with statistics compiled by its employees in accordance with each agency’s internal policies, procedures.
The FBI doesn’t have the resources or authority to ensure the statistics it receives are complete or accurate. It provides each agency with the policies, definitions of offenses and procedures for filing statistics properly.
The FBI has no political or philosophical motivation, with regard to the collection, compilation and publication of its reports. This may not apply to the agencies involved.
The farther down the chain of reporting agencies one goes, the more political and other influences may be brought to bear.
For instance, how many scarce resources may be expended by a law enforcement agency in an activity which does not “fight crime.” The fewer resources available, the greater the chance of errors.
Politically, the primary duty of government is to secure the safety of its citizens. Many politicians have seen their careers and/or philosophies of governing questioned when crime increases under their administrations.
In the eyes of some of the less scrupulous politicians, crime stats may be seen as a means of ensuring their continued “service” to the people who elect them. There is temptation to cook the crime stats to serve their personal political interests rather than the truth.
I believe the FBI does a very good job at assembling the information provided. Understand the reporting process is in the hands of those who forward information to it.
It is my experience that the greater the difference between local claims and those reported in the FBI’s reports, the greater the likelihood that the local level is responsible.