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Indexes differ on city crime rate

Ben Godar

Crime in Burbank was either up or down in 2002 -- depending on who

you ask.

A report issued April 27 by the California Attorney General’s

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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%.

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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

burglaries.

“I don’t understand how you can not consider larceny/theft a

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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

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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

either index.

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.


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