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Editorial: Pittsburgh Police must comply with federal reporting mandates

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12/14/2022 The Editorial Board / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Pittsburgh is among more than 40% of all police agencies nationwide that failed to comply with an update in reporting crime data to the FBI. That prevents the public from getting an accurate picture of crime rates and trends, even as violent crimes are increasing dramatically.

The failure to report crime statistics is especially egregious in Pennsylvania, where only 40 police departments out of 1,504 have shifted from using the decades-old Uniform Crime Reporting Program to the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The new system, which the FBI fully instituted last year, tracks additional details about reported crimes, such as whether murders are committed with firearms, demographics of crime victims and the arrest rate for different crimes. The lack of participation by such a populous state can obscure crime numbers nationally, while raising questions about police transparency. 

By contrast, every department in Delaware and Vermont shared its data.  

Pittsburgh failed to comply, even though the FBI in 2015 started notifying agencies that federal money was available to help with the changeover. Philadelphia secured almost $4 million and made the change. Pittsburgh qualified for the funding, but the city didn’t apply, the Post-Gazette reported Sunday. It also reported that Pittsburgh expects to make the change next year, but the date could be pushed back.

That’s unacceptable. Police stats are an invaluable tool for identifying crime trends and solutions. Local agencies must provide this critical data. If law enforcement agencies can’t do it on their own, the state ought to enact legislation requiring them to comply with the new reporting system, or lose state funding. Departments that failed to report 2021 statistics need to add them to the new system as soon as possible to prevent data gaps.  

The more comprehensive system will provide police agencies, policymakers and the public with more accurate information and better informed strategies to combat violent crime, which increased dramatically during the pandemic. The FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a roughly 30% increase in the U.S. murder rate between 2019 and 2020. The trend continued last year, Pew Research reports. 

Making the switch to the National Incident-Based Reporting System isn’t free or easy. It can cost up to $377,000 for new technology and training, as well as another $53,000 for annual maintenance, the Bureau of Statistics reports. But that’s no excuse for not getting it done. Ross Township Police, just north of Pittsburgh, made the switch in December 2014 without any fuss.

Pittsburgh Police need to get a sense of urgency about reporting crime statistics — or have it foisted on them by the General Assembly. 


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