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Police department discovers error in crime stats

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A week after the Clayton County Police Department released 2007 crime statistics, showing that major crimes had declined by almost 10 percent, the department discovered an error in the calculation of the statistics.

The revised figures show major crimes were actually up in 2007 by almost seven percent.

Department statisticians attributed the error to a glitch on a computer spread sheet. The glitch caused the computer not to count one month of the year, leaving the statisticians with incorrect, year-end numbers, which were given to a Clayton News Daily reporter.

The error was discovered this week, when the police department was recalculating the year-end numbers to submit them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The corrected numbers show that in 2007, Index 1 crimes -- Georgia's "seven deadly sins" and arson -- rose in unincorporated Clayton County by 6.96 percent.

According to the final report, there were 77 rapes in 2007; 605 robberies; 650 aggravated assaults; 3,242 burglaries; 3,898 thefts; 1,602 motor vehicle thefts, and 44 arsons.

In 2006, there were 42 rapes; 564 robberies; 521 aggravated assaults; 3,042 burglaries; 3,556 thefts; 1,696 motor vehicle thefts, and 37 arsons.

The spread sheet error did not alter the reported number of homicides. The number of homicides was calculated by the detectives, and not by the department statisticians. There were 34 murders in unincorporated Clayton County in 2007, a slight increase from the number of murders the county investigated the year before. When counting the homicides from all the jurisdictions, including the cities in Clayton County, there were a total of 43 murders, which was three more than 2006.

Though the police chief had previously praised the crime reduction and credited his community-oriented policing programs, before finding out the numbers were faulty, he said the correct numbers showing the rise in crime may not show the true, full picture.

Crime statistics are based on police reports, Turner said, and the community-oriented policing programs encourage more phone calls from citizens. That, in turn, creates more police reports.

He said the department received between 800 and 900 more calls every week, in 2007, than it did the year before.

The rise in crime in 2007, he said, could possibly be a rise in reporting and not an increase in incidents.