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:

     Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property
     Drug/Narcotic Offenses
     Fraud Offenses
     Gambling Offenses
     Motor Vehicle Theft
     Pornography/Obscene Material
     Prostitution Offenses
     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.


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:


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”:


(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.


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.


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.


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. 


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