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Crime is down in the city of Toledo, but how far down depends on the source of information.
Toledo’s internal crime statistics are markedly different than those reported to the FBI in 2012 and 2011. And the numbers in the police department’s annual report last year differ from those presented to city council in an April 16 memo written by Police Chief Derrick Diggs.
Toledo mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins, a city councilman and former Toledo police officer, is waging a war against Mayor Mike Bell’s claims that crime has plummeted. Mr. Collins acknowledges some types of crime have fallen, but alleges the Bell administration has tried to draw attention away from other types, such as aggravated assault.
The mayor and his top police officials dismiss Mr. Collins’ claims as political rhetoric.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bell has not stopped reminding voters about his record, which he says includes more police hired than his two predecessors combined, action to deal with a failing water system, overcoming a $48 million deficit during his first year in office while not raising taxes, paving streets, demolishing abandoned homes, and decreasing crime.
Among his assertions is that crime fell 24 percent during the first three months of 2013 versus the same period last year.
But some officials such as Mr. Collins and the leader of the police patrolmen’s union, don’t believe the double-digit drop is possible and question how 2012 numbers were recorded and reported.
“The bottom line for me is I find it patently offensive when the true story of what is going on in the city of Toledo is being distorted for political purposes, and the information that is being disseminated is only that which avails itself to the Bell administration in a favorable light,” Mr. Collins said. “The mayor and chief of police are misrepresenting the true circumstances on how safe this city is or isn’t.”
According to the FBI numbers, Toledo’s total crime was down 9.49 percent in 2012 over 2011. On the other hand, total crime was down 18.34 percent according to the police annual report, or it was down 17.82 percent according to Chief Diggs’ April 16 memo.
The different sources of crime statistics are not easily compared because they offer numbers on different types of crime. For example, the annual report shows 512 “shooting incidents” in 2012, up from 449 in 2011. That category doesn’t appear in the FBI data or the chief's memo. Instead, the FBI data include aggravated assaults — which show a 29 percent increase in 2012 over the previous year. The chief’s memo does not show data for aggravated assaults or rape, which also increased in the FBI data from 124 in 2011 to 172 in 2012.
Chief Diggs, in that April 16 memo to council, warns that the city’s “CrimeStat” numbers and the FBI’s Unified Crime Report data should not be compared against each other.
“Unlike UCR crimes, that require a stringent and time-consuming classifications and scoring process, CrimeStat utilizes raw data for comparison and pattern identification,” the chief wrote. “Therefore, these two processes should not be compared to each other.”
Burglary, auto theft, robbery, and murder are the only crimes appearing in all three sources — but with different numbers.
There were even different numbers for murders: 39 in 2012 according to the FBI numbers and 36 according to the Toledo numbers.
The number of 2012 murders were increased after the annual report because three deaths originally not thought to be murders in the city were later ruled homicides here, said police Sgt. Joe Heffernan, the department’s spokesman.
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Mayor Bell’s spokesman, Jen Sorgenfrei, and Police Capt. Michael Troendle, head of the department’s criminal intelligence section, also said the differing numbers for the same years and categories of crime are explainable. “UCR just has different classifications of the way to title crimes, the way they classify crimes,” Captain Troendle said. “If you trespass on someone’s property and steal something, in the Ohio Revised Code it is called a burglary, but UCR doesn’t call it a burglary. It is called a theft.”
Captain Troendle said other classifications don’t match.
“UCR does not classify a male-on-male rape as a rape. They call it a sexual assault,” he said. “The point is, UCR is about classifying crimes the same way throughout all the states. … When we do our CrimeStat process, we don’t care about how UCR classifies the crime.”
The city’s process allows the department to quickly deploy officers where they are needed more quickly in an attempt to prevent crime, the captain said.
“Even though we are not tracking the same exact incidents, we are tracking the same types of crime that correlate to each other,” Captain Troendle said.
Internal statistics from other cities also differ from the FBI data. In 2010, Cleveland police issued a report that showed the city had 10,088 burglaries, 2,319 felonious assaults, and 507 rapes. The FBI data said the city had 9,871 burglaries, 1,923 aggravated assaults, and 344 rapes that year.
Toledo burglaries were down among all three sources but each showed a different number for 2011 and 2012.
The FBI records show 6,739 in 2012, down from 8,366 in 2011. The police annual report said there were 6,490 in 2012, down from 8,369 in 2011.
Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, said that 19 to 22 percent drop — depending on where you look — is not believable.
“I don’t think it is an accurate portrayal of what has actually occurred here in Toledo,” Mr. Wagner said.
“The officers don’t believe burglary is down, because of the number of calls they are responding to,” he said. “We are wondering if some of those were reclassified to make it look better. It’s an election year, and I’m sure if you are on a platform to make Toledo safer, you can make the figures say what you want them to say.”
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Mr. Wagner said it would be possible to classify a burglary, which is a felony, as a criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.
Michael Dearth, a Block Watch leader and former citywide Block Watch chairman, said the city doesn’t feel safer, regardless of the numbers from this year or past years.
“I have seen the stats that are going to the FBI and they are really a lot different than the annual report,” said Mr. Dearth, who last year was one of several people interviewed for the Lucas County Democratic Party’s endorsement to fill a vacant seat on Toledo City Council. “I talk to a lot of people in a lot of different neighborhoods and I don’t hear anyone talking about a safer town,” he said.
The other main candidates in the mayor’s race, Councilman Joe McNamara and Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, have both promised a safer city if elected.
Mr. McNamara said he would increase the police ranks and reopen the department’s Northwest District Police station on Sylvania Avenue, which was closed in 2012 over the objections of the majority of councilmen.
Before Ms. Lopez officially announced her candidacy, she called crime an ongoing problem in the city as well as the the condition of neighborhoods.
Chief Diggs’ data-driven policing project, called ORION, which stands for Observation Research Intelligence Operations Network, has been at the top of his efforts to reduce crime.
Under his watch since taking over the department on Oct. 21, 2011, a new camera system known as “eye in the sky” has been installed along city streets. The chief said data-driven policing helps to deter crime, improves officers’ response, and helps investigators solve crimes. He stressed that burglaries in Toledo declined from 2011 and homicide detectives solved 83 percent of the crimes they investigated, compared to the national average of 52 percent.
Ms. Sorgenfrei said Mayor Bell stands by the department’s accomplishment of reducing crime.
“We are stopping serial crime faster than we ever have before,” she said.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171, or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.