Thursday 28 August 2014

Missouri City Police Department Questions Validity Of ‘Crime In Suburbia’ Report

When Missouri City Police Department officials saw the first segment of the “Crime in Suburbia” story aired on KHOU Channel 11 last week, they were shocked and confused to see their city’s property crime rate reported as being higher than the City of Houston.

In the report, Missouri City was described as having one of the highest crime rates of the areas covered in the investigation.

To view UCR crime data from area cities, click here.

According to e-mails obtained through an open records request by FortBendNow, despite warnings from Missouri City Police Captain John Bailey that the methodology used in compiling the television report’s statistics had to have been flawed, KHOU still ran the second of the two-part series ran that night.

“Maybe you should look at the DPS web sites to check your data,” wrote Bailey to 11 News reporter Dave Fehling on May 21, prior to the airing of the second part of the series. “I don’t know what these people looked at or included but it is clearly misleading or wrong.”

 According to Channel 11’s report, the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a program of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. and the Missouri School of Journalism, compiled the data supplied by the cities involved and came up with the comparisons.

“We do not know the methodology that was used to create that report, and without the methodology, we cannot replicate what they have done,” said Bailey.

FortBendNow contacted NICAR in an attempt to discover how the data was used, but so far has not received a comment from the organization.

Without knowing what numbers or methodology NICAR used, it is impossible to know how the agency compiled their list of “safest cities,” but the Missouri City Police Department theorizes the organization used Incident Based Reporting when compiling the numbers for Missouri City, rather than the nationally-accepted standard of Uniform Crime Reporting.

UCR is the reporting method used both for the FBI’s Annual Crime Report and the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Crime in Texas annual report. Law enforcement agencies are required by law to report UCR data yearly, and it is the most commonly used data when comparing crime among cities. Not all cities, including the City of Sugar Land, collect IBR data.

Bailey said that MCPD collects IBR statistics that are useful for internal planning, but cannot be accurately compared to UCR crime reporting.  

In an e-mail sent today to Missouri City Homeowners Associations, Missouri City Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said, “In summary, the labeling of Missouri City as a “high crime city” was grossly inaccurate. A fair comparison of Missouri City crime data (using a standard UCR format) to the other cities in Channel 11’s report reveals that Missouri City has the lowest crime rate per capita amongst cities in Fort Bend County with populations of 50,000 to 100,000, and the second lowest crime rate per capita of all the cities in their report. Our data and methodology are supported, and readily available for review. We presented this data to Channel 11 reporters, but received no indication that they would reassess their presentation.”

According to DPS’s 2009 Crime in Texas Report, Missouri City reported a total of 1,418 “Part 1” crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. Missouri City showed an increase of 3.4 percent from 2008.

 In contrast, the City of Sugar Land – which was touted as one of the safest cities in the Channel 11 segment – reported 1,967 Part 1 crimes, an increase of 5.4 percent over 2008.

Bailey said the city will no longer release IBR statistics unless asked specifically for them.

“The police department will no longer be sending IBR data out to keep a fiasco like this from occurring again,” said Bailey. “Unless someone specifically requests IBR, we will be sending UCR data only. This is a lesson learned for us.”