(The Center Square) – When announcing his plan to combat fentanyl, Gov. Gavin Newsom claimed San Francisco has less violent crime than Dallas, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida. He said, “Two truths can co-exist at the same time: San Francisco’s violent crime rate is below comparably sized cities like Jacksonville and Fort Worth — and there is also more we must do to address public safety concerns, especially the fentanyl crisis.”
Violent crime includes homicide/murder/involuntary manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and human trafficking-sex act/involuntary servitude.
According to the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer database, violent crime reported by the SFPD was 5,933 in 2019 and 4,976 in 2020.
Violent crime reported by the Dallas Police Department was 11,887 in 2019 and 11,514 in 2020.
But the numbers don’t represent the same data.
The San Francisco Police Department reports its violent crime data based on the number of incidents, except for homicide. The Dallas Police Department reports violent crime data based on the number of victims. To explain the difference, an alleged perpetrator may rob three people in an incident. SFPD counts this as one incident; DPD reports it as three victims.
For this and other reasons, the FBI warns against comparing the data because it isn’t comparable: “The data found on the Crime Data Explorer represents reported crime and is not an exhaustive report of all crime that occurs. It’s important to consider the various factors that lead to crime activity and crime reporting in a community before interpreting the data.
“Without these considerations the available data can be deceiving. Factors to consider include population size and density, economic conditions, employment rates, prosecutorial, judicial, and correctional policies, administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement, citizens’ attitudes toward crime and policing, and the effective strength of the police force.”
The only comparable data is homicide data, which all three cities report by victims.
In March, DPD’s crime data report lists 36 homicide victims, including 34 murder/manslaughter victims, one justifiable homicide victim and one negligent manslaughter victim.
The SFPD’s March COMPSTAT report listed three homicide victims in March.
The Jacksonville Sheriff/Police Department’s crime mapping tool lists three incidents of homicide in March. The tool allows users to click on the individual incident to learn the date, location, perpetrator and victim demographics. In March, three incidents equaled three victims.
Unlike the SFPD and DPD, the Jacksonville Sheriff/Police Department website doesn’t include totals of violent crime subcategories and doesn’t publish COMPSTAT reports online. Its violent crime data also isn’t included in the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer database.
Regarding homicide victims last month, San Francisco and Jacksonville reported three; Dallas reported 36.
A DPD spokesperson told The Center Square that violent crime is down in Dallas due to a new crime reduction plan the police chief put in place in 2021. Dallas has the lowest number of incidents in several years but a higher number of victims.
An SFPD spokesperson told The Center Square its “data provided in reports is based on the number of incidents, not victims, with the exception of homicide. Homicides reflect the number of victims and are not based on incidents.
“Reporting requirements and definitions for Part I offenses are outlined by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program and include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson. SFPD categorizes each as a Part I Violent Crime or Part I Property Crime.”
After multiple attempts to reach them, Jacksonville Sheriff/Police Department employees couldn’t answer questions about violent crime data. Multiple staff said there was no media relations office to handle press requests. The Public Information Office line goes unanswered. One officer told The Center Square, “it’s not my job to report or understand the data.”
An employee in the crime data division told The Center Square to look up crime definitions in state statute, file a public information request to get the data in 10-14 days. She wouldn’t answer other questions. Another staffer failed to follow up on the request as well.
After pointing out that a website page dedicated to “transparency” in reporting homicide data stated there were zero homicides in Jacksonville year to date, which is false, the page was updated to reflect accurate data.
Newsom’s claim would have been true if he said there were more homicides committed in Dallas than in San Francisco last month. When it comes to all violent crimes, his claim isn’t accurate because the data isn’t comparable, as the FBI warns.
In March, according to data reported by each department, SFPD lists 16 incidents of rape, DPD lists 22 victims, Jacksonville lists zero incidents.
SFPD lists 221 robbery incidents; DPD lists 203 robbery victims; Jacksonville lists 24 robbery.
SFPD lists 211 aggravated assault incidents excluding subcategories. DPD lists 639 aggravated assault victims, 341 intimidation and 1,231 simple assault victims.
Jacksonville lists 271 assault incidents but doesn’t include subcategory totals.
SFPD listed zero incidents of human trafficking-sex acts/involuntary servitude in March; DPD listed 3 victims. No human trafficking category exists in Jacksonville’s crime mapping tool.
According to each department, there are 1,903 SFPD officers serving roughly 815,000 residents, just over 3,000 DPD officers serving 1.3 million residents and approximately 1,500 Jacksonville officers serving over 1 million Duval County, Florida, residents. Roughly 35%, or 650 of the Jacksonville officers, didn’t live in Duval County last year, Jacksonville Today reported.