S.F. Crime Misclassifications Screw up State and Federal Reports

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Federal and state crime reports that rely on numbers from the San Francisco Police Department are almost certainly erroneous because of racial misclassifications that stretch back years.

Many Latino arrestees have been classified as “white” and Asian arrestees have been classified as “other,” according to The Bay Citizen, which uncovered the mistakes. The errors were blamed on an antiquated San Francisco police computer system that didn’t have the proper categories for transferring information from written police reports to digital files.

“Not only can we not tell you if the numbers are right, we really can’t articulate what the problems are, or if there are problems,” Chief Information Officer Susan Giffin told the publication.

But a cursory look at some of the numbers seemed to indicate something was amiss.

California Department of Justice statistics that rely on input from the police department show just 316 arrests of Hispanic adults in 2010. “I look at that number as a police officer and I can tell that it is inaccurate,” Deputy Chief Lyn Tomioka told The Bay Citizen. The crime report said just nine Hispanic juveniles were arrested that year.

The crime stats also listed 2010 arrests of 8,198 African-Americans, 9,151 whites and 2,800 “other.” When you combine the bogus numbers with population statistics you come up with some startling results. African-Americans make up 6% of the population but are responsible for 40% of arrests. Latinos are 1.5% of the arrestees although they are 15% of the population. And Asians never get arrested.

The data is used by the state, the FBI and myriad studies on crime and race.  

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

SF Police Underreport Arrest Rates for Latinos, Asians (by Shoshana Walter, The Bay Citizen)

Crime in California 2010 (California Department of Justice)

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