While the exact source may be in dispute, Mark Twain popularized the phrase, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It’s an effective way to communicate the reality that people love to play with numbers.
We look at numbers a lot here. We evaluate stats on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. In the past, we have been rightfully criticized for manipulating the numbers, so we have safeguards in place to maintain the integrity of the gathering and reporting processes.
Recently, our Crime Watch partners published a newsletter, which highlighted a short-term spike in residential burglaries. Some published comments made it appear that we took issue with the numbers from the Crime Watch folks.
I support the message Crime Watch is delivering to our residents. It’s working (see http://www.bocachiefblog.com/2012/06/residents-connected-stepping-up.html). They were simply using raw numbers to create immediate awareness. We do need to be thoughtful about the conclusions we draw from data of this nature. Consider the following when you hear about Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) stats:
• UCR stats have limited value relative to determining the quality of life and law enforcement services in a particular jurisdiction.
• When evaluating UCR stats, think long-term trends.
In the latter part of 2010, I wrote a blog (http://www.bocachiefblog.com/2010/09/crime-barometer.html) about the risks associated with using UCR numbers as an effective measure of crime and community concerns. “Snapshot” numbers are not necessarily accurate and are not useful for meaningful analysis.
Everyone has a spin, including the BRPD. While we keep crunching the numbers, you keep a critical mindset. Stay Safe.