Crime in Burbank was either up or down in 2002 -- depending on who
A report issued April 27 by the California Attorney General’s
office, based on figures from the California Crime Index, shows crime
in Burbank increased by 0.1% compared to 2001. But under the FBI
Crime Index, which uses national uniform crime-reporting standards,
crime actually decreased by 4.3%.
Lt. Kevin Kraft, who manages crime data for the Burbank Police
Department, said there are several reasons for the discrepancy, most
of which he sees as shortcomings in the way the California Index is
tabulated. For instance, while both indexes measure the same violent
crimes, the California Index omits larceny/theft from its list of
property crimes. Larceny includes all thefts except auto thefts and
“I don’t understand how you can not consider larceny/theft a
property crime when it’s the most reported crime,” Kraft said.
The California Department of Justice established its own index
about 35 years ago and omitted those theft crimes in an effort to
give more weight to violent crimes when figuring an overall rate,
spokesman Mike Van Winkle said.
“Once you add in larceny/ theft, you start losing any effect on
the overall statistics that violent crime would have had,” he said.
But in Burbank, the overall rate increased despite a 17% drop in
violent crime. All violent crimes in the city decreased during 2002,
with the exception of forcible rape, which went from seven in 2001 to
10 in 2002. The only significant increase was in the area of property
crimes, where auto thefts grew by 11.3%. In the FBI Index, however,
that increase is mitigated by an 8% decrease in larceny/theft. Arson
also more than doubled, from 10 to 24, but that did not factor in
The California Index also counts all reported crimes, while the
FBI Index removes so-called unfounded crimes. Those are crimes which
turn out not to have even occurred, for instance an item reported
stolen which turns out just to be misplaced.
Kraft said having two separate standards contradicts the reason
uniform reporting criteria were established in the first place.
“I think it’s misleading,” he said. “Either it’s going to be
uniform or it’s not.”
The state figures present a distorted view of crime in Burbank, he
added, pointing out that anyone seeking information on the city who
views those numbers will be mislead.
Burbank was not the only city in the state to demonstrate a
discrepancy between the two indexes. In Glendale, the FBI Index says
crime is up 1.1% while the California Index says it is down 1.6%. The
largest difference was in Santa Clara, where the FBI Index says crime
was down 4.1% while the California Index says it was up 10.9%.
Justice Department officials are aware of the discrepancies, and
Van Winkle said there have been discussions of going back to using
the FBI standards. However, he said a change is unlikely before the
end of 2003. When there are discrepancies, he said the department
encourages people to trust local officials.
“In every community, the police have a lot better read of what’s
going on,” he said.