Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crime Stat vrs Police Releases

The topic of crimes being reported in Winnipeg keeps coming up. In the latest blog post from Policing, Politics and Public Policy Menno Zacharias compares crimes reported in the Police Releases to the ones listed on the CrimeStat database on the City of Winnipeg Police website. He compares the month of September, 2011 which shows 787 items listed in CrimeStat with the Police Reports that list only 10 of those crimes.
Brian Kelsey at the State of the City blog has been blogging about the safety of the downtown, and the way crimes are being reported, and not reported. He mentioned three specific crime categories that are omitted from the CrimeStat database; those being stabbings, assaults, and arsons.
Well, today I had a look at just one day, October 28, 2011. I received 4 emails Oct 28 and 1 email on Oct 29 from the Winnipeg Police Service regarding that day. They are as follows:
  • Public Advisor - 9:05am - Notice that there will be a procession going down Portage Ave protesting the CWB activities.
  • News Release - 11:05am - Halloween Safety Tips
  • News Release - 11:40am - Stabbing 2:00am (C11-226798) female robbed at Main & Stella, Commercial Robbery 2:00am (C11-226796) 400 block of Edison Ave
  • News Release - 3:05pm - Male Wanted (R11-88976) for theft and fraud investigation
  • News Release - Oct 29 11:02am - Commercial Robbert 5:00am (C11-226866) 800 block of Ellice Ave, police located male w/ gun shot wound transported to hospital in critical condition, later upgraded to stable.
When I look at the CrimeStat map for the day in question, the stabbing shows as an assault, and although gun shots are reported on CrimeStat, this gun shot is not listed.

It is possible that the gun shot icon will appear in the next few days, as the report appeared on Saturday in my email. But how do you explain police reports listing a stabbing at Main and Stella and the CrimeStat listing a non-commercial robbery? Are all stabbings down graded to show as robberies or other lesser crimes? Or does CrimeStat just feel the theft of personal property is a far more interesting statistic than the stabbing of a human being?
What is the actual purpose of the CrimeStat map on the WPS website? Is it to arm citizens with valuable information on crimes being committed throughout Winnipeg? Or is it designed to create illusions of Winnipeg as City Hall sees fit? How many crimes have been downgraded from their original Police Report listing to show as minor issues on the CrimeStat map.
I, for one, would like to know who makes the decisions on the categories listed on CrimeStat. And further to that, I want to know who decides which category icon will be used to report specific crimes.
Start listing stabbings, arsons and assaults on CrimeStat map. Lets have a look at the crimes actually happening in Winnipeg for a change. List them, or tell us why they have been excluded.


  1. Not sure if you read former police chief Menno Zacharias' blog. He made a similar post to this

  2. Yes, actually I did. I also started this blog post off mentioning that post.

  3. Yeah - to be clear: on Winnipeg's *public* crimestat maps, a stabbing that is also a robbery will be mapped as a robbery, but NOT mapped as a stabbing. A stabbing with no robbery component wouldn't be mapped at all unless it was fatal. As I noted elsewhere, it's not that this data isn't available; it should appear as both an assault and a robbery the WPS' own internal version of the stat maps.

    Who decides? Well, in any other city, in a traditional compstat model, the oversight body responsible for keeping the Police Service accountable to crime reduction goals would decide. In many US cities, that would usually be the Mayor's Office or the City Manager. In Canada, that would usually mean the city's Police Services Board.

    However, since there's no Police Services Board literally years after the Legislature passed a law with great fanfare to create one, ultimately the four pockets of responsibility for this sort of policy and program would be (1) City Council, as the ultimate policymaker at City Hall, (2) the Mayor as Council's chief executive, (3) the CAO as the FT City Manager and (4) the Chief of Police as the manager of the policy area in question. Any one of those four could conceivably take action to update what is or isn't mapped, either by changing the maps or by directing someone with the right authority to report certain data sets as a required matter of policy.

    When Crimestat was first created - at the formal direction of Council, by the way - the general understanding was that amount of data posted would grow over time, as would the various uses of the intelligence provided. Something happened in the early 2008-mid-2009 window where the City's commitment to copy intelligence-led policing strategies from other cities simply dropped off the agenda. Don't ask me why, because I still can't quite explain it myself.

    I hope to have a (constructive!) new thought on this aspect of the crime issue in the next few weeks. We shall see. :)