Special Media Report
The Crime Rate in Pulaski County
A simple idea to measure the crime rate for any given city or county in the United States is a good idea. This is the type of information that can be very useful to citizens for many reasons. But things can get very complex during the reporting procedure. In this report I shall try to explain the Uniform Crime Reporting system better known as the UCR system.
Each month every police agency in the united states, federal, state, local county or city is required to report a set of predetermined crimes and arrests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each year the FBI compiles this information and then they make a complete report to the United State Congress on the issue of crime in America. As with any system created by the government there are complex issues that must be studied to understand the system. This report will cover the issue of crime in Pulaski County Missouri and I will do my best to keep the complex issues simple.
Figures lie and liars figure. How many times have you heard that statement? When you are dealing with a system that relies on figures you must remember that they are open to a certain amount of interpretation. Understanding what is reported and how the data is captured makes the interpretation much more valid.
On the surface the system is simple. There are only two basic parts to the system. The part one report captures only the data related to a select group of “major crimes”. The second part report captures the date related to the selected “other” crimes that occur. The part one crimes are captured as Pulaski County “rural” and Pulaski County “all”. The Pulaski County “rural” numbers come from the cases reported by the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department as having occurred in the unincorporated parts of Pulaski County.
The Pulaski County “all” figures capture the numbers for all major crimes reported in Pulaski County and does include the numbers reported by the Sheriff’s Department. The second part of the system captures arrest data on arrests made by all departments within Pulaski County. Each arrest is broken down by age, sex, race and charge. The department making the arrest is not part of the final report.
The part one crimes are divided into two sections. Section number one are the violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The second section covers the property crimes and they are burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, robbery and arson. Since you just saw robbery listed in both sections your first question is why? Here is where the system gets confusing and where the system gets very complex. Each crime has a set of requirements that must be established before it can be reported. Thus robbery with a gun would probably go under section one but a purse snatch would go under section two.
The crime data listed under part two does include all of the part one offenses and a lot more. The part two crime section adds the following; simple assault, forgery or counterfeiting, fraud, embezzlement, stolen property (buy, sell, receive), vandalism, weapons charges, prostitution, vice and sex offenses. It also includes eight separate categories of drug violations, gambling, offenses against the family and children, driving under the influence, boating under the influence, liquor law violations, drunkenness, disorderly conduct, vagrancy, and the catch all section of “all other offenses”. Part two also lists curfew, loitering, and runaways under18 years of age.
The reporting system also has a hierarchy rule. This gets very complex and also leads to a certain amount of confusion. Each major crime must meet a list of criteria set by statute to be prosecuted as the major crime. The very nature of crime means that included within the one specific major crime are usually several less important crimes. The less important crimes would drop off the report.
Another set of rules deals with the fact that many times there are several unrelated crimes committed within a few minutes during the commission of the crime the bad guy was actually wanting to commit. Therefore there is another pecking order to establish what should be reported. The best example I can think of is to revisit the day our Deputy Rex Larson was shot on the job. Dep. Larson was responding to a burglary in progress, an actual burglary had occurred, but when he arrived on the scene the suspect shot him twice and the case was reported as aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer under the hierarchy rule. The data on the burglary offense was left out of the report.
If our department had a set of crime numbers that we routinely released we would most likely have reported both the burglary and the assault on Dep. Larson to the media. Later if the media checked our year’s crime numbers we would be at least one burglary short of what the UCR system reported. And the loss of the burglary data could lead to confusion with the media and the citizens.
Then there is the human factor. How efficient was the person who entered the data? Did they follow the UCR rules correctly? Did they find and capture the data to be reported for all of the crimes within their jurisdiction that should have been reported? Since the person who enters the data depends on the officers who made the arrest to have properly filled out the arrest paperwork then how accurate was the officers data?
By this time you should understand that the UCR system is complex and any reliance on the number data generated should be taken with a bit of salt. The system does work well and does a good job of reporting but please remember that there can be errors.
For the purpose of this report I only researched the data from the year 2001 through 2007. While there are numbers available for 2008 they are not complete numbers and tend to confuse the issue. Anything prior to 2001 can be argued to be old history and besides you must establish a starting place somewhere.
For 2001 the UCR reports show that the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department reported a total of 332 part one crimes in rural Pulaski County. All law agencies within Pulaski County (includes PCSD) reported a total of 819 major crimes in the county. For the year 2001 all Pulaski County law agencies reported a total of 1,656 arrests.
For comparison purposes the year of 2007 the rural crime report was 370 part one crimes. All other agencies part one crimes totaled 959. The total number of arrests for 2007 was reported as 2,218. I have included a chart with this report that lists the data from part one rural, part one all, and total arrests for each year.
I would like to remind everyone that to a degree this system is open to interpretation and at times the numbers seem strange. Also please remember to factor in the human element. This report clearly shows that crime in Pulaski County has increased over the past seven years but for those same seven years we have also enjoyed a business and housing explosion.
----Part One rural -----Part One All ------All Crime