Counting Crimes

The Virginia State Police keep a database of crimes reported under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system.  They count the “Type A” offense reports by police unit:

     Arson
     Assault
     Bribery
     Burglary
     Counterfeiting/Forgery
     Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property
     Drug/Narcotic Offenses
     Embezzlement
     Extortion/Blackmail
     Fraud Offenses
     Gambling Offenses
     Homicide
     Kidnapping/Abduction
     Larceny/Theft
     Motor Vehicle Theft
     Pornography/Obscene Material
     Prostitution Offenses
     Robbery
     Sex Offenses, Forcible & Nonforcible
     Stolen Property Offenses
     Weapon Law Violations

The 2016 version of the annual report, Crime in Virginia, is available on the VSP Web site.  Mr. Westerberg of the VSP has (again) kindly furnished a copy of the data as an Excel spreadsheet so I haven’t had to copy the numbers out of the pdf on the Web.

These data have their peculiarities.  VSP reports the number of incidents, not offenses, such that some of the count includes multiple offenses.  Where an incident includes more than one offense, they report the worst.  Thus, for an incident where an offender murders someone in the course of a burglary while carrying drugs, the incident is reported as a murder.

They report the numbers by police agency.  Thus, there are counts both for the Farmville Police and the Prince Edward Sheriff, despite their overlap in the Town.  They also list incidents reported to the State Police; for example, the Richmond Police Department shows 19,081 incident reports in 2016 and the State Police show 206 in Richmond that year. 

The report also includes data for the colleges, the Capitol Police, and state agencies such as the ABC Board. 

Finally, the small jurisdictions produce some weird statistics because even a small variation can produce a large change in the crime rate.  As well, in some small jurisdictions the State Police report a significant fraction of the incidents.  For instance, in Alleghany County in 2016, 215 incidents were reported to the sheriff and 122 to the State Police.

I produced the graphs and table below by leaving out the data for the State Police and State agencies.  I also omitted data for the jurisdictions with populations <10,000.

Here, then, are the 2016 data by jurisdiction, expressed as Type A offense reports per 100 population, plotted v. population.

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The graph is distorted by the Big Guys, Fairfax and, to a much lesser extent, Virginia Beach, Prince William, Chesterfield, Loudoun, and Henrico.  If we expand the axis to shove those jurisdictions off the graph we get:

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The correlation is zilch, suggesting that population is not related to the rate of offenses reported.

Richmond is the gold square here; the red diamonds are the peer jurisdictions, Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk (left to right).

Richmond is sixth from the “top”:

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(The VSP database truncates at about 25 characters, so we get, e.g., the Roanoke Police “Depar”.)

The Richmond rate is down this year, reflecting the statewide trend, albeit nearly double the statewide rate.

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The Type A total is driven by the property crime numbers: Typically the larceny, vandalism, and motor vehicle theft numbers will account for 2/3 of the Type A total.  To see how violent and drug crime are doing, we have to look underneath the totals.

When we do that, we see the number of simple assaults and drug incidents both dropped in Richmond in ‘16.

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Note: This graph and those immediately below report the raw counts of offenses reported in Richmond, not the rate.  Throughout this period, the Richmond population has been near 200,000, without much change, so you can get close to the rates per 100 by dividing these numbers by two thousand.  Thus, the 1,579 drug incidents in Richmond in 2016 were 0.71 per hundred population; the approximation gives 0.79.

The robbery, aggravated assault, and weapon law numbers did not change much this year albeit the weapon count remains up from the pre-2014 period.

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The rape, “other” (non forcible) sex crimes, kidnapping, arson, and murder rates all continued to bounce a small amount.  As with robbery and aggravated assault, the decreases from the early 2000’s are remarkable. 

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To see the (decreasing) rates in Forest Hill (notwithstanding the unacceptable rate of car breakins), go here.

Crime Is Up

The State Police publish an annual report, Crime in Virginia.  They count the “Type A” offenses:

Arson
Assault
Bribery
Burglary
Counterfeiting/Forgery
Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property
Drug/Narcotic Offenses
Embezzlement
Extortion/Blackmail
Fraud Offenses
Gambling Offenses
Homicide
Kidnapping/Abduction
Larceny/Theft
Motor Vehicle Theft
Pornography/Obscene Material
Prostitution Offenses
Robbery
Sex Offenses, Forcible & Nonforcible
Stolen Property Offenses
Weapon Law Violations

These data have their peculiarities.  The VSP reports the number of offense reports, not offenses reported, so multiple offenses often are reported as a single incident.  In such cases, they report the worst.  Thus an incident where somebody sticks up a liquor store, beats up the clerk, and murders an bystander will be reported as a homicide.

They also report the numbers by police agency.  Thus, in Richmond there are separate data for the RPD (20,921 incidents in 2015), the State Police (269 in Richmond), the VCU Police (1,027), and the Capitol Police (117).  The Richmond data below are for the RPD.

Mr. Westerburg of the State Police has been kind enough to email me the spreadsheets behind Table VIII in the annual report, which spares me the chore of extracting the data from a pdf.  Whew!

In terms of total, 2015 shows a slight increase in incident reports, both statewide and in Richmond (I didn’t pull the 2014 data, hence the gaps).

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The Richmond rate of 9,600 per 100,000 perhaps is more understandable if expressed as 9.6 per hundred population.

Among the Virginia police jurisdictions with populations >10,000, here are the 2015 “leaders”:

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For some reasons we might argue about, our peer jurisdictions show lower rates than we do.

Note: The State Police know how to spell “department.”  But their database truncates at 25 characters.

The totals are largely driven by property crime.  Typically, larceny, vandalism, and motor vehicle theft will account for 2/3 of the total.  To find out about violent and drug trends, we need to dig down some.  Here, for a start are the annual Richmond numbers for assaults. 

Note: Data below are total incidents reported by RPD; our population has held near 200K recently so divide by 2 to get a quick estimate of the count per 100K.

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Weapon law incidents are up; drug offenses about steady, and robberies slightly down.

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Arson, kidnapping, murder, rape, and other forcible sex offenses all are up.

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For a list of the hot blocks in Richmond in 2013 see this page.  I won’t be updating that page: The City no longer allows large downloads from the RPD database so it takes a FOIA request and the cost of some bureaucrat’s time to get the data.  Our tax dollars at “work.”

And see this page for data showing a nice improvement in Forest Hill, at least through 2013.  The updating there takes only a small download and is on my ToDo list.