Palm Springs, CA

Police: Data used to calculate city's crime rate is skewed

The Palm Springs Post

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Calculations used to figure the city’s crime rate are wrong, police officials said Monday.The Palm Springs Post

Palm Springs police officials are putting context behind the content of publicly available data reportedly showing that the city has a higher crime rate than many surrounding cities in the desert.

“Palm Springs is actually lower than state averages,” they explained in a document sent to members of the media and made available online. That fact is not readily apparent, however, at first glance.

At issue is the method used to calculate the crime rate with data provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. Specifically, they said that online organizations that calculate a crime rate using a per 100,000 population figure do the math wrong when they fail to consider that Palm Springs’ population is typically higher than what the census lists due to an influx of seasonal visitors.

“Online sources using a daily resident population of 47,897 (2019 Census) skews the UCR data,” they wrote. “…Using more accurate data to reflect permanent and seasonal residents, as well as businesses, employees, tourists, and visitors to Palm Springs, we estimate a daily police department crime population of 75,000 people. This equates to 2,596 crimes per 100,000 people and an 8.5% lower crime rate than the 2020 reported state average.”

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Data reported to the FBI show the volume of property crimes and violent crimes decreasing in Palm Springs between 2015 and 2020. Reported incidents in 2021, however, are on pace to be higher than recent years.

Data reported to the FBI show the volume of property crimes and violent crimes decreasing in Palm Springs between 2015 and 2020. Reported incidents in 2021, however, are on pace to be higher than in recent years.

Using only the numbers of actual crimes police respond to, and not a per capita calculation, would show some but not all crimes in the city are decreasing, they said.

“Crime decreased between 2015 and 2020 by 44% for property crime, and violent crime decreased by 11%,” they wrote. However, “2021 analysis shows an uptick in both property crimes and violent crime incidents with data collected through June of this year.”

What’s to blame for the increase?

“The answer is complex and is related to national and state trends, changes in public policy, as well as a rapidly expanding tourist economy,” police said. “…Data shows more than 60% of crimes in Palm Springs are crimes of opportunity, such as leaving your home or vehicle unlocked.”

The increase in property crimes noted both in data and social media chatter comes when the city is attempting to attract new police officers. For nearly a year, the department has had six vacant and five frozen positions, as well as multiple officers out with long-term injuries. It recently began offering a $30,000 hiring bonus in an effort to attract more officers. In addition, city leaders are conducting a nationwide search to replace outgoing Police Chief Bryan Reyes, who is set to retire later this month.

While fully filling their openings remains a high priority, police said Monday there is no feeling that elected officials do not support officers.

“The City Council recognizes the importance of a completely funded police department,” they wrote, pointing to not only approval of the $30,000 hiring bonus but also more than $6 million in equipment and facility upgrades. Among those upgrades are state-of-the-art body and vehicle cameras, a remodel of the existing training center, and a new substation currently under construction within the new downtown park.

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