Police figures on rape in error

Audit says 33 city cases in '02 not reported to FBI

Total increases from 178 to 211

Agency wrongly ruled 15% of cases `unfounded'

December 03, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF


An article yesterday about Baltimore police rape statistics inadvertently omitted a comment by Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark. Clark, who ordered an internal audit that determined that rapes had been underreported to the FBI last year, said he was keeping close tabs on crime numbers, which help police determine where to target their resources. "I have a very strict standard," Clark said. "I want to make sure we are deploying to the right places for the right reasons."

Baltimore police underreported rapes to the FBI by more than 15 percent last year, according to an internal audit.

The audit found that 33 rapes had been improperly ruled "unfounded" and should have been reported to the FBI, increasing the city's rape total last year from 178 to 211.

The summary of the rape audit, obtained yesterday by The Sun under the Maryland Public Information Act, was submitted to police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark by the internal affairs division Oct. 14. Police officials declined to disclose the agency's rape reports and files, which include more comprehensive information, and they said they were taking steps to notify the FBI about the statistical changes.

The audit found that the majority of the 33 cases did not have enough information in reports to justify ruling them as "unfounded." Four rapes had been ruled unfounded, even though police made arrests in the cases. When a reported case is determined conclusively to be unfounded, it is not reported to the FBI.

This past summer, police officers - concerned about the validity of the department's crime statistics - delved into rape reports that were determined to be unfounded and discovered 78 cases that did not contain enough information to justify their classification, sparking the internal audit, police officials said.

Supervisors of the detectives who submitted the questionable reports then conducted a review of the cases. They determined that 11 cases had been improperly ruled "unfounded," police officials said yesterday. The department had reported in September that only three had been improperly classified.

A third review by internal affairs investigators boosted that number to 33, officials said.

Outside experts said the rape audit and problems found during a wider-ranging audit of crime statistics three years ago indicate that the department needs to take steps to ensure the accuracy of its data.

"It seems clear there is some kind of repeated pattern of trying to find some kind of crime that can be classified as a lesser" offense, said Jan Chaiken, a criminal justice researcher and former director of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in Washington, D.C. "Basically, if you look at one crime type, it leads you to wonder about the other crime types. ... It does lead to questions."

In 2000, Mayor Martin O'Malley launched an audit of the previous year's crime statistics. The review eventually boosted crime totals in 1999 by 14.5 percent, from 66,015 to 75,587.

The number of violent crimes - which include homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults - rose by 23 percent, from 15,251 to 18,735, after the audit.

O'Malley and police officials have repeatedly trumpeted a 26 percent reduction in violent crime from 1999 through 2002.

Without the audit that corrected the 1999 figures, however, the city's decrease in violent crime would be about 10 percent.

Clark said he is keeping close tabs on his crime numbers and created a new unit of detectives in internal affairs who are auditing crime numbers in different districts and by crime types.

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