You might have heard that Uniform Crime Report (UCR) crime numbers in New Orleans have risen substantially over the last few years. You might have also heard that abysmal response times tend to influence whether crime is up or down at any given time. There was a 21 percent increase in UCR crime from 2012 to 2014 and last year’s response time-aided crime figures were still 14 percent above 2012’s total.
Something interesting is happing in 2016 though. UCR is up relative to 2015 even though Calls for Service suggests it should be down.
Calls for Service can be used to measure UCR crime by identifying incidents that are likely UCR crimes. There are 34 different NOPD ‘signals’ (crime types) that match UCR crime descriptions, and the number of those incidents with a ‘Report to Follow’ (RTF) designation in any given year correlates nearly perfectly with that year’s number of reported UCR crimes.
Measuring just the annualized pace of likely UCR Calls for Service marked RTF gives us this graph.
It says crime is up about 5 percent from where it was in 2015 and down about a similar percent from where it was in 2014. This is basically what the city’s UCR report for the first six months of 2016 said.
But we know longer response times deflate crime, and we also know that 2016 has had slightly faster response times than in 2015. The deflationary effect of longer response times can be accounted for by counting all likely UCR Calls for Service with an RTF as well as those with a ‘Gone on Arrival’ (GOA) or ‘Unfounded’ (UNF) disposition. This gives a true accounting of how crime is trending independent of response times. Here’s the result:
A few things jump out from this graph. First, the jump from 2012 to the last few years is more severe than in the officially reported figures. This graph suggests crime went up 25 percent from 2012 to 2014 and was up 20 percent in 2015 compared to 2012.
The second thing that jumps out is that crime was nearly identical in 2014 and 2015 except for a slight drop over the last two months of 2015. The official figures said crime was down 6 percent though this methodology suggests it was closer to a 2 percent drop with the extra 4 percent of the drop being lagniappe caused by response times.
The third thing that jumps out is that crime is rising in August 2016 but is down 2 percent from 2015. This is a nearly 7 percent difference from what we get when only ‘RTF’ is included (the first graph above). This difference can be seen in the below graph which measures the change from 2015 to 2016 using just RTF versus the more encompassing measurement using RTF, GOA and UNF dispositions.
The final thing that jumped out to me is how worsening response times over the last few months have obfuscated rising crime since May. The pace of crime using just RTF has actually fallen 0.4 percent from May 1 to August 20, but the pace of crime using RTF, UNF and GOA is up 5 percent over that time. This suggests crime should be rising faster than it is right now.
It’s hard to say where our officially reported crime numbers will come in in 2016, but the likelihood is that UCR crime will be up this year relative to last year. Crime is certainly up considerably when compared to 2012 and 2013, but a small improvement in response times this year may be hiding a slight drop in overall crime levels.