Numbers need to add up to trend down
By LeaAnne Klentzman
Crime is down! Crime is down! A statement shouted from the roofs of many police agencies bragging about the downward trend of crime in their respective jurisdictions.
So what does that really mean? Is crime really down or is the way police are reporting it trending it downward? Are there really fewer burglaries? Thefts? Home invasion robberies? Shopliftings? Police administrators will tell you yes.
However, keep in mind that cities all across America are vying for that coveted “Safest City in America” moniker. Furthermore, law enforcement officials know that their city councils, commissioner’s courts, as well as state and federal elected officials expect the crime rate to be at least steady, if not declining, after all the dollars that have been dumped into “safety” for the American citizen.
UCR Reports have been hotly debated in the last three Fort Bend County sheriff’s forums. The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) is identified by the FBI as, “…a voluntary city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement program that provides a nationwide view of crime based on the submission of statistics by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.” Also according to the FBI, the UCR data is a way for law enforcement to formulate their planning, resource allocation, police operations, and budgets in order to address the crime problem at various levels.
Another group that utilizes the information compiled by the UCR Report is chambers of commerce, tourism agencies as well as criminal justice researchers in their efforts to study crime. Legislators also use the UCR information to draft anti-crime measures using the research findings and recommendations of law enforcement to keep the public informed on the state of crime in their area, state and federal governments.
Based on the FBI’s publications, participation in the UCR program is voluntary. Since there is no mandatory auditing program to validate an agency’s submitted data or reporting practices, the integrity and the accuracy of data rest upon the efforts of individual law enforcement agencies in reporting accurate numbers and quality data. Keeping that in mind, it is easy to see how the numbers could need to add up to trend down. While the FBI warns not to use the UCR Reports as a report card on law enforcement agencies, that is exactly how they are most frequently used.
During the latest forum presented by the West Fort Bend Republican Women held at the Swinging Door Restaurant last Thursday evening, three of the four sheriff candidates spoke to their issues and answered questions from a panel.
First to speak was 45-year law enforcement veteran Billy Frank Teague. Teague spent those 45 years first as an officer in the Dallas area, 8 years with Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office as a patrolman, detective, and detective sergeant until 1982 when he left to join DPS. He retired from DPS after 20 years of service, joining the Richmond police department as an administrator and serving another 8 years before retiring again to run for Sheriff.
He is running on a platform of integrity, leadership, service and vision. Teague said he was a committed to utilizing “your tax dollars” in ways that best benefit the community. Teague told the audience that he would never embarrass the office of sheriff nor the voters that allowed him to serve them. When asked how he would change the reputation of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office, Teague said, “The sheriff’s office is the lead agency in the County and must cooperate with all other agencies. The sheriff has got to take the lead by encouraging, supporting, and helping the law enforcement agencies to move forward and work together.” He said he was determined to move toward an interactive, community oriented based style of policing.
Next to introduce himself was Constable Troy Nehls. He said he came from a family of law enforcement, where his father and now one of his older brothers serves the community of Dodge County, Wisconsin as sheriff. Nehls said he is a retired Major in the US Army Reserve with overseas tours and 21 years of service. Currently, Nehls is constable for precinct 4 and has 19 years law enforcement experience. He relocated to Fort Bend County in 1994 and recently earned his MS in criminal justice from University of Houston Downtown.
Nehls has identified the Fort Bend County Sheriff ‘s office abysmal crime solve rate as the platform for his campaign. Nehls said that based on a statistical analysis he did on the crime solve numbers provided to him by the sheriff’s office through an open records request, he determined that their crime solve rate for burglaries is about 4%, one of the lowest crime solve rates in the state.
Nehls said he based his assertion on an analysis of the last 10 years worth of statistics that the sheriff’s office has provided to the state to report to the FBI. Nehls said he also learned that the abysmal crime solve rate was not just limited to burglaries. He also identified over three quarters of a million dollars in overtime that could be saved at the sheriff’s office by simply creating an evening shift for detectives. He said that since this budget year began in October, the detectives have accrued a quarter of million dollars in overtime.
Craig Brady introduced himself by thanking everyone for coming out and said he was honored to be the chief deputy and extremely proud of the detectives who put in the overtime to make sure it was safe for your family. He said Fort Bend County has consistently been rated as one of the safest counties of its size in the nation. However, he provided no basis for that statement.
He said his opponent, Nehls, was improperly using the UCR numbers. He went on to say that the numbers that had been provided to Nehls, the state, and the FBI were incorrect based on a computer reporting error. He went on to say that his office had gone back and hand tabulated the numbers and now, the crime solve rate was one of the best in the state. To further enforce his statement, he said, “Contact me or come to the sheriff’s office and we will show you the facts.”
The reason one would have to go to the sheriff’s office to see those numbers is because once the UCR numbers are submitted, tabulated and the UCR report is completed, there in no way to change it. In short, there is no “do over” in crime reporting rates. Brady went on to say that he has a BS in criminal justice from the University of Houston Downtown. He is the father of seven and has 34 years of law enforcement experience. He said, “I have the knowledge, experience, and background to continue to do the job.”
Candidate John Minchew, the former police officer and railroad police administrator, now business owner, was unable to attend the forum because of family emergencies that occurred that afternoon. Billy Frank Teague announced to the audience that Mr. Minchew could not be present and ask that everyone hold the Minchew family in their thoughts and prayers for a healthy recovery for his daughter and father-in-law.
There was yet another Sheriff’s candidate forum last night that will be highlighted in next week’s paper.