Is Paso Robles fabricating crime statistics?
February 23, 2012
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” — Phrase popularized by Mark Twain
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon is proclaiming a dramatic drop in crime under her watch, but the numbers she provides to back up her claim don’t match those furnished by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI.
Local law enforcement agencies regularly report accumulated crime numbers to the DOJ which sends them on to the FBI.
Solomon claims credit for an 11.7 percent drop in the city’s crime rate since she became chief in 2007. However, according to FBI crime totals for Paso Robles from 2007 through 2010, the eight major crime categories have risen an average of 2.2 percent per year and violent crimes such as assaults, rapes, and murders have actually increased 16.74 percent over four years. (Data for 2011 is not yet available.)
City officials have provided data that appears to show the total numbers for major crimes in Paso Robles from 2002 to 2006 were higher than totals provided to CalCoastNews by the Justice Department and the FBI. Then, immediately after Solomon became chief, crime totals provided by the city were significantly lower than those the city reported to the DOJ and the FBI.
Crime statistics can vary slightly between what is reported by the DOJ and the FBI because of the difference in federal and state government classifications of crimes such as rape, according to officials from the FBI, the DOJ and local law enforcement. However, in these cases, the numbers reported by the DOJ and the FBI are primarily the same, and simply do not coincide with numbers the city provided as its FBI report numbers.
The crime statistic discrepancy comes amid swirling allegations that Solomon sexually assaulted several of her officers; the claim of a drop in crime has been offered by Solomon to local media outlets as evidence of her job performance.
Solomon responded to a CalCoastNews public records request by delivering a graph showing Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) from the FBI’s reported crime numbers for Paso Robles from 2002 through 2011. The graph appears to support Solomon’s claim that the city’s crime rate has dropped 11.7 percent since she became chief.
However, while many of the crime numbers align with the FBI’s reported numbers, large discrepancies in burglaries are common, with as many as 54 more burglaries a year reported before Solomon was appointed chief.
In comparing only the eight major crimes Solomon used to back her claim, FBI numbers show an average 2.2 percent increase per year in Paso Robles.
Solomon did not respond to questions asking why the crime numbers provided the media by her department do not match those provided by the DOJ and the FBI.
A representative from the DOJ Criminal Justice Statistics Center confirmed that the number of burglaries reported by Paso Robles to CalCoastNews are not consistent with the numbers reported to the state. But, “There has been no manipulation of the data by our agency,” the DOJ representative said in an email.
Even data from the FBI does not accurately portray the crime levels in Paso Robles because responses to crime in the city by other agencies are not listed under the Paso Robles’ police department’s crime statistics. Rob Bryn, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff department’s public information officer, said that sheriff’s deputies assist the city of Paso Robles more than any other municipality in the county.
“The sheriff is aware of the budget issues throughout the county and will assist if resources are available,” Bryn said. Last year in Paso Robles, deputies responded to “30 verified calls total including two requests by CHP due to PRPD not having a unit to back them in their city and one call traffic collision/non-injury that PRPD would not respond to. Deputies handled removing the vehicles from the roadway.”