Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

April-27-01

Detroit Police Admit Wrong Stats for Rape Arrests

Throughout the 1990s, the Detroit Police Department's rape squad looked great, consistently reporting the nation's highest arrest rates, always at least double the national average.

Women's advocates are alarmed and say the phony numbers gave them a false sense of security.

Now, the city's shame-faced police department acknowledges that the statistics were wrong and its crime data are so seriously flawed that it is unclear how many suspects really were collared. But it insists that the statistics were not deliberately changed and misreported, as they have been in many other cities where police departments dismiss rape complaints and try to boost their image.

The errors appear to follow the pattern of erroneous statistics for homicide arrests that were so high that they skewed national crime statistics. The fact that the city's crime data were misleading was uncovered by an investigation undertaken by the local newspaper, the Detroit Free Press.

"It might have been a computer problem, with duplicate entries for the same arrest," said Deputy Chief Paula Bridges. She added that she was unable to determine for how many years the misreporting has occurred.

Sheilah Clay, executive director of Detroit's Neighborhood Service Organization, said the misinformation has serious ramifications for her group that provides counseling and referral services to victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and other social problems.

"It gives the community a false sense of security when that may not be an accurate picture," said Clay. "It has ramifications on levels that people wouldn't even think of."

Detroit's troubles highlight a national problem of police departments' inaccuracy in crime reporting--which often influences how departments provide services to rape victims.

Nationwide, Police Reporting of Rape Has Proved to Be Highly Flawed

Increasingly, police reporting of rape nationwide has been proved to be highly flawed.

Criminologist Alfred Blumstein, of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, says police data on rape are far less dependable than reporting for other crimes because police departments differ in determining how women's rape complaints are counted.

"I don't trust the numbers," said Blumstein. "There's so much discretion in reporting."

Without accurate police reporting, women's groups can't judge whether police are solving rapes. Philadelphia police for years hid hundreds of sexual assault complaints in an effort to make the city look safer than it really was. St. Paul recently announced that throughout the 1990s, it mistakenly inflated its statistics for solving rape cases.

Detroit's problems exploded last month after news reports that the city's homicide arrest figures were so seriously inflated that they skewed the FBI's data for the entire nation. Year after year, it had told the FBI that it arrested about five times as many suspects as it really charged in killings.

For example, the Detroit Police Department had told the FBI that for 1999 there were 415 murders and 1,152 arrests in the Motor City, or nearly three times as many arrests as there were murders. However, Michael Cox, a deputy chief prosecutor of Wayne County, Mich., said in an interview that only about 200 suspects really were arrested in Detroit each year for murder.

Another measure of Detroit's inaccuracies are the FBI's national crime statistics for murder arrests. In 1999, the latest year for which FBI statistics are available, police across the country reported 15,533 murders and arrested 14,790 suspects--nine arrests for every 10 murders.

Flawed Statistics: Three Times the National Rate for Murder Arrests

But at the rate Detroit was reporting arrests, it would have been collaring 27 suspects for every 10 murders. In other words, Detroit supposedly was arresting murder suspects at three times the national rate.

In mid-April, a top Detr

Media Resources: MsMagazine


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

11/21/2014 STATEMENT: Feminist Majority Foundation Applauds President's Executive Order on Immigration - Statement from Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation president: "The Feminist Majority Foundation applauds President Obama for taking much needed executive action to help fix our broken immigration system that has for too long torn hardworking families apart. . . .
 
11/21/2014 Fifth Circuit Court Refuses to Reconsider Ruling Blocking Mississippi TRAP Law - The full US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday refused to reconsider a panel decision blocking enforcement of a Mississippi law that threatened to close the last remaining abortion clinic in the state. In July, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction against a Mississippi TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. . . .
 
11/21/2014 UN Expert Calls for Action To End Violence Against Women in Afghanistan - United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo returned last week from a nine-day official visit in Afghanistan with a call to the Afghan Government and the international community to continue its focus on creating sustainable solutions to reduce violence against women. This was Manjoo's third visit to Afghanistan, and the Special Rapporteur noted many positive developments since her travel to the country in 1999, during the Taliban regime, and in 2005. In particular, Manjoo cited the creation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW) by presidential decree in 2009 as "a key step towards the elimination of violence against women and girls."EVAW criminalizes 22 acts of violence against women - including rape, child and forced marriage, domestic violence, trafficking, and forced self-immolation - and specifies punishment for perpetrators. . . .