Denver underreports crime on public website since 2009

8:53 PM, Oct 25, 2012   |    comments
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"People want to know what's going on on their street," Realtor Amy Jackson said. "I want the data to be accurate."

She checks crime in her neighborhood regularly and encourages her clients to do the same before they buy.

See other cities in the metro area with crime map websites, http://on9news.tv/RiYt4J

"It's embarrassing," City Councilman Albus Brooks said.

He called on the city to fix the problem immediately.

"We want to make sure this is taken care of," Brooks added.

The problem occurred due to an old computer program that relied on an old address matching system that hadn't been updated, Denver Police Deputy Chief Bill Nagle said. Nagle oversees police administration, which includes the department's crime statistics reporting.

Due to the computer error, some of those crimes were not making it from the department's master-crime list to a list of crimes used in generating the crime mapper.

Nagle says the problem was accidental, and the city did not intend to mislead the public.

"We were never trying to hide any crimes. It's very important for us to get it accurately," Nagle said.

Of the missing crimes, the most were robberies at 3,986. After learning of the problem, the city was able to add those crimes onto the crime map. The remaining 8,346 missing incidents are for various crimes such as home burglaries, aggravated assaults, kidnappings, stolen cars and car break-ins.

When someone vandalized Jackson's SUV and slashed four tires, she expected the crime to appear on crime mapper. It is one of the thousands of crimes that did not.

"It's leading people into a false sense of security. They might think, 'Oh this is a very low crime area.' That may not really be the case," Jackson said. "As a citizen, it makes me concerned. What else is happening in my neighborhood that I don't know about?"

"I can understand why people are frustrated," Brooks said. "I can assure you this problem is going to be fixed."

"We take the problem very seriously and we've identified the cause that prevented at about 11,000 of the records from not showing up on the map," Ethan Wain, Denver Deputy Chief Information Officer said.

Nearly 4,000 records are now appearing. He believes they will have an addition 7,000 appearing when a fix is implemented.

"We are in the process of testing the solution and we want to make sure it works as intended before releasing it," said Wain.

The police department was aware of and investigated every crime even though it didn't appear on the crime map, Nagle said. Correct numbers were reported on maps the department makes once a month. Those maps show crime density but do not show where specific crimes occurred.

The city says it averages 2,083 unique visits to the crime-mapper website each month.

You can search for crimes missing from the Denver Crime Map by either your street number or the name of your street. You need to use all CAPS when searching. Give the search about two minutes.

Read more about how investigative reporter Jace Larson approached this story, http://bit.ly/5H11v

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Call him at 303-871-1432 or email him
jace.larson@9news.com

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