Is Las Vegas Metro doctoring its public reports to downplay a significant amount of violent crime?
Since 2011, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been reporting robberies as “crimes against property,” rather than crimes against persons.
That departs significantly from the standards used by the FBI and virtually all other U.S. police agencies since the 1930s, when crime-reporting procedures for law-enforcement agencies became standardized under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (“UCR”) Program.
Until 2011, Metro’s crime reporting also conformed to UCR standards — under which, “violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.” (Emphasis added.)
The remaining types of Category 1 offenses — burglary, larceny, and auto theft — constitute crimes against property.
Nevada Journal contacted LVMPD’s Office of Public Information on January 11 to learn Metro’s explanation for the observed change in its reporting methodology. As of January 22, Metro still had not responded.
The effect of the change has been to reduce Metro’s ostensible “violent crime” rate, while elevating the rate of the department’s reported property crime.
This departure from industry standards was noticed when Nevada Journal had occasion to examine Metro’s own crime statistics, typically included within the department’s annual reports.
Up through 2010, robberies were included within the category of “crimes against persons” and thus came under the violent-crime heading.
However, the 2011 crime report is different. Comparison with data filed under UCR standards with the Nevada Department of Public Safety, as well as the FBI, clearly shows that, in Metro’s version, robberies had been moved under the “crimes against property” heading.
No explanation was offered in the report to explain the change.
The same re-categorization was done by Metro in the years 2012 through 2014. It is unknown whether this practice continued beyond 2014, since the department’s 2015 annual report did not even include crime statistics. Nor has the department yet issued an annual report for 2016.
When Nevada Journal in 2016 inquired about the absent 2015 statistics, it was informed that the numbers had not been available when the annual report went to press.
“[T]he UCR report was going to be issued later than the due date [Sheriff Lombardo] had set for the annual report,” said a spokesperson from LVMPD’s Office of Public Information in an email.
The crime report for 2011 ostensibly suggests a 44 percent year-over-year reduction in violent-crime based on 2010’s published rate.
However, while the rate of violent-crime did in fact decrease in 2011, it was by only about 17 percent — well under what was suggested by the department’s idiosyncratic treatment of its data.
Metro’s new practice of classifying robberies as property crimes — continued through the following three years — understated the violent-crime rates for those years as well.
The following table shows the difference that results in the violent-crime rate — first as reported by LVMPD, then reported in a manner consistent with FBI standards — for LVMPD’s jurisdiction for 2011-2014.
Conversely, the same practice has inflated the reported property-crime rate, as below:
PDFs of Metro’s Crime Reports, 2010 through 2014:
Daniel Honchariw, MPA is a policy analyst with the Nevada Policy Research Institute.