Maine in the middle of the pack on reporting crime stats to FBI

Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia had higher reporting rates than Maine of its law enforcement data to the FBI.

by | August 21, 2022

The gaps in data present challenges to analyze crime trends and fact-check claims, often made by politicians, on crime statistics. Photo by Eric Conrad.

Less than half of law enforcement agencies in Maine have submitted a full scope of data to the FBI for the full calendar year of 2021, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project.

Nearly all of Maine’s 133 law enforcement agencies have submitted at least partial data for 2021. Six agencies — Rumford, Gardiner, Searsport, Oxford, Millinocket and Richmond — failed to report any data. 

The gaps in data present challenges to analyze crime trends and fact-check claims, often made by politicians, on crime statistics. 

Some of the largest police departments in the nation such as the New York and Los Angeles police departments were among the 40 percent of agencies that did not report any data, The Marshall Project found. 

Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia had higher reporting rates than Maine, which ranked 26th in a list of states with the highest percentage of law enforcement agencies reporting a full 12 months of data. Maine recorded 47 percent of agencies providing 12 months of data.

The lack of data collection comes as the FBI introduced a new data collection system, the National Incident-Based Reporting System in 2021 after retiring its nearly century-old Summary Reporting System. 

Although the transition was announced years ago, nearly 7,000 of the country’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies failed to “send crime data to the voluntary program last year,” according to The Marshall Project investigation. 

A pair of New England states do the best job at reporting complete data to the FBI: Rhode Island (92 percent) and Vermont (89 percent), which puts them at first and third, respectively, in the state rankings. 

Connecticut ranked ninth (76 percent), while Massachusetts ranked 14th (60 percent) and New Hampshire 33rd (41 percent). 

Experts and law enforcement officials told The Marshall Project it will take years and millions of dollars for a large police department to transition its data storage system so it can report crime statistics to the FBI’s new system, meaning national crime statistics are poised to be unreliable for years.

“It’s going to be really hard for policymakers to look at what crime looks like in their own community and compare it to similar communities,” Jacob Kaplan, criminologist at Princeton University, told The Marshall Project. 

To read more about the challenges these data gaps present, read What Can FBI Data Say About Crime in 2021? It’s Too Unreliable to Tell from The Marshall Project. 

To explore the data compiled by The Marshall Project, check out See If Police in Your State Reported Crime Data to the FBI.

 

George Harvey is the multimedia editor of The Maine Monitor. Reach him by email: george@themainemonitor.org

 

George Harvey

George Harvey

George Harvey is the Multimedia Editor for The Maine Monitor. He oversees digital and newsletter production, coordinates social media content and shares the work of The Maine Monitor’s staff writers and contributors with media partners around the state. George has freelanced and contributed stories to publications in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas and Maine. He previously worked in athletics administration, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University.


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