CITY HALL — The Chicago Police Department is being forced to change the way it keeps track of assault victims after the city's inspector general found that they were underreported in 2012.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson released the report Monday. It found the department was counting assaults by "incidents," not by the number of victims. That runs counter to a clarification made in 2010 by the Illinois Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
According to the report, that mistake led to a 20.8 error rate, with assaults underreported by 24.2 percent.
The report cited a 2012 sample of 72 incidents with 95 victims, 57 of which involved a single victim, while 15 involved more than one person.
The police department responded within the report that it simply had never made the transition to the new state standard for counting assaults under the Daley administration. The current administration under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said they were unaware of it until the inspector general raised the issue late last year.
Despite the error, the department says Chicago still saw a decline in assaults and shootings last year. Moving forward, however, things will have to change.
Though Ferguson didn't tackle the way the police department counts shootings in his report, the same system of counting "incidents" rather than shooting victims applies. CPD spokesman Adam Collins said "we'll be making the change" and counting all of the people wounded by gunfire in a single incident, not just the incident itself.
He added that the department would "probably" keep track of both incidents and victims to ease comparison of data from year to year, but "it's part of the review."
The report also found that Chicago police misclassified 3.1 percent of assaults, but that was well under "the 10 percent error rate the FBI states is acceptable." The report also lauded the department for accurately compiling its data in CompStat reports.
"Under Mayor Emanuel and Supt. McCarthy, the Chicago Police Department takes the tracking, compiling and reporting of crime data extremely seriously as that information informs our policing strategies and our deployment, and is shared with the public to provide an accurate understanding of crime conditions," Collins said. "We make extensive amounts of crime data available to the public online in a number of formats.
"We are proud that CPD is regarded as the national leader for public transparency in crime data," he added. "We appreciate that the Office of the Inspector General affirmed CPD’s CompStat system and crime data."
Ferguson made note of "some flaws in the data system," but found it "largely accounted for documented assault-related crimes." He also cheered the CPD’s "robust response to the problems the audit revealed," calling it "an encouraging sign of an organization seeking to improve."