News 4 Investigates: Policing by the numbers

Derenda

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Modern policing is all about crime stats…counting them…mapping them and focusing police resources to hot spots.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said he targets the department’s strike force based on a daily review of information provided to him by the department’s crime analysis staff.

“One of my first stops this morning was the analyst center to look for patterns of what’s going on,” Derenda said during a recent interview with News 4 Investigates.

“We address it whether it is a larceny pattern of items being stolen from vehicles, whether it’s a robbery pattern or whether we have gang activity or shootings.  We address each and every one based on current data.”

That data analysis includes mapping and mining other fields of information such as the location, the time when a crime occurred and whether a weapon was used.

While a geographic analysis can be critical to tracing the patterns of a burglary ring or car thefts it is of limited value in tracking rape, officials said.

Much of that is because rape is more likely to involve someone known to the victim and victims are more likely to be children or teenagers.  A small number – like five percent – involve an attack by a stranger.

“Most of the situations are not the woman walking down the street alone,” said Lt. David Mann who heads up the Buffalo Police Sex Offense Squad. “Most of the situations are the woman was already in contact with a person she knows on some level, and then the sexual assault occurred.”

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports provides the framework for police agencies to define, count and report crime. The most serious crimes described as Part I include murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

While Derenda prefers to talk about Buffalo’s decline in serious crime in recent years those numbers don’t consider changes in the city’s population. Buffalo has seen its total serious crimes drop to 15,740 in 2013, a drop of 7 percent from 2012. The city has also seen an uptick in rape from 121 in 2011 to 141 in 2012 to 145 in 2013.

Another way to look at Buffalo’s crime picture is to see how the city compares to other cities close in size.  In that list Buffalo ranks sixth in the rate of violent crime per 100,000 population for 2012 for cities from 250,000 to 499,999 in population.  Buffalo’s violent crime rate ranks higher than Kansas City, Miami or Toledo.

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