Drug Arrests Greatly Exaggerated In Police Report

Annual Compilationwithdrawn After 'Honest Mistake'

April 09, 1992|By Anne Arundel County Police Kris Antonelli | Anne Arundel County Police Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

A county police narcotics report distributed last week to state and county officials has been recalled after it erroneously stated that drug arrests increased 170 percent last year when they actually rose only 72 percent.

"It's a sad but honest mistake," said Capt. Michael Fitzgibbons, who wrote the report's cover letter. Chief Robert Russell edited and signed the final copy, Fitzgibbons said. Russell was out of town yesterday and could not be reached.

The annual report of the narcotics enforcement section mistakenlycompared drug statistics for all of 1991 with stats for half of 1990, resulting in inflated numbers.

The report and Russell's cover letter to reporters was released April 2. Fitzgibbons said the 33-page report also went to County Executive Robert R. Neall, the seven County Council members, the county legislative delegation and U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen.

The memo said drug arrests had gone up from 293 in 1990 to 790 in 1991. Infact, there were 460 drug arrests in 1990, resulting in a 72 percent increase in 1991. Vehicle seizures rose 213 percent, according to the memo, from 40 to 125. The memo showed cash seizures jumping 121 percent, from $195,870 to $431,892. The actual increase was 22 percent for cash seizures and 64 percent for vehicles.

Department officials, who were unaware of the errors until a reporter pointed them out, were working yesterday to correct the figures and send out revised copies, Fitzgibbons said.

"The author of the report, perhaps in his haste to finish," copied the wrong figures from the1991 semi-annual report and put those in the year-end report, Fitzgibbons said.

"We are sorry the mistake was made, and we are eating the appropriate crow that goes with it," he said.

A detective in the narcotics section complied the report, then forwarded it to his superior, Lt. James Snow, Fitzgibbons said. Snow said he read the report, then forwarded it to his supervisor, Deputy Chief Robert Beck.

"I didn't catch the error, and it was submitted as an accurate reportto my superiors, and they had no way of knowing it was anything but what it represented," Snow said. Snow, who took responsibility for the snafu, stressed that the arrest figures themselves were accurate.

Beck forwarded the report to Russell for his approval.

"(Russell) read the report," Fitzgibbons said, but he did not pull out any previous reports to compare figures.

Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary, said the difference in the figures won't affect how much money the police department gets in fiscal year 1993. All department heads were asked to submit requests equal to, or less than, last year's budget, she said.

"It's not like we're rewarding them for good behavior or anything," Hayman said.

Councilman George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat, who has not read the report, said he would "take a real close look" at it now.

"I could see an increase in arrests, but 170 percent!" he said. "That's even out of the realm of anybody's imagination."

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat, saidhe had not read the report either. "I can't for a second believe (Russell) would intentionally mislead us with these figures," he said.

THE STRAIGHT DOPE ON COUNTY NARCOTICS STATISTICS

Here are complete figures for 1990-1991 drug arrests and seizures by Anne Arundel County police:

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..% increase

.. .. .. .. .. .... .. .. .. ..Actual.. .. .. .. reported by

.. .. ... ..1990 .. ...1991.. % increase.. .. .. .. . police

Arrests: ...460.. .. . 790.. ... 72% .. .. .. .. .. .. .170%

Vehicles

seized:.. .. 76.. .. . 125.. .. ..64.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 213

Cash

seized:. $353,618.. $431,892.. ...22.. . .. .. .. .. .. .121

Staff writers Elise Armacost and John Morris contributed to this story.

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