MPD's 5,300 misreported crimes 10 times higher than acceptable error rate, says JS reporter
MILWAUKEE- The Journal Sentinel reporter, who discovered Milwaukee police misreported nearly 500 serious crimes, is responding to Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn's testimony before the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety Committee about an ongoing internal audit of crime stats.
Flynn presented evidence showing Milwaukee police over-reported around 1,100 crimes over the past six years, but admitted they underreported about 4,100 crimes since 2006.
Journal Sentinel reporter Ben Poston told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Wisconsin's Afternoon News with John Mercure, the vast amount of coding errors since 2006 are problematic. Poston said even with the MPD's internal audit and the Journal Sentinel findings -- that makes around 4,000 violent crimes underreported over the past six years.
Poston said after talking to criminologists -- the misreporting error rate of 20% would put the errors at 10 times higher than the accepted standard.
Chief Flynn testified that his strategy has resulted in an overall decrease in Milwaukee's violent crime rate.
"Coding errors were consistent over the past six years, so Flynn's point is despite all the coding errors, that crime is still down in the city and based on these numbers, he's right," said Poston. "(Chief Flynn's) other point is that coding errors have gotten better over time under his leadership than before hand and he's also right on that, according to these numbers."
Poston's original article about misreported crime stats found that in 2011, Milwaukee's violent crime rate would have gone up if the crimes were coded correctly instead of down as Flynn had announced.
Poston credited Flynn for his transparency Thursday and said Milwaukee police were able to do the internal review so quickly because of their immediate and complete access to their crime stats database. "They did a targeted review of aggravated assaults crime. They have full access to their system," said Poston. "Our analysis was based off the data we had available to us -- the crime data and (Milwaukee County) DA's database."
Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Barrett said he is proud of MPD for being transparent about flaws in crime data. "While there were errors in total crimes reported to the FBI, the Police Department's analysis shows crime trends previously reported are correct," Barrett said. "Milwaukee is a safer city."
Alderman Jim Bohl blasted the newspaper for its reporting. "They will accuse, they'll accuse, they'll blow everything up, then when the light gets shined that says, ' there's nothing there,' then they quietly walk away like crickets and they don't say anything," said Bohl.
Greg Borowski, the senior editor for projects and investigations at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel responded by saying: "We stand by the reporting we did, and if anything the chief's comments underline its accuracy...We're going to continue examining the crime numbers because we think the public has a right to know what the accurate picture of crime in the city is."