PEORIA, AZ – A police association is refuting a recent report on crime statistics released by Peoria Police Chief Roy Minter, claiming city council members and residents are getting a misleading picture of public safety in the city.
Luis Ebratt, executive director of Peoria Police Officers Association, a nonprofit founded to protect police rights, said the chief’s assertion that crime is decreasing and that response times have increased minimally is “unreliable” and “questionable.”
What it comes down to is that there aren’t enough police on the force, he said.
“Say what they might about stats, there are a lot of variables that go into crime stats. There are ways to skew crimes stats,” Mr. Ebratt said. “Statistics can say anything you want to report.”
Mayor Cathy Carlat said the Peoria Police Officers Association is using false assertions for political gain.
Three City Council seats are up for election later this year, as well as a recall for one council seat. The only reason someone would make this up would be for political purposes, Ms. Carlat said.
“There is no basis in fact to their statistics. Peoria’s crime statistics are grounded in highly standardized data reporting that is used by over 18,000 law enforcement agencies all across the nation,” she said. “To undermine the professionalism and accomplishments of our police department for political gain hurts all of us. When it comes to public safety, there is no place for politically-charged rhetoric. Not only is it unfounded, in the current volatile environment it is irresponsible and dangerous.”
Since 2011, major crimes per 1,000 residents in Peoria have fallen 32 percent, according to the report released by Peoria, which included an overview of crimes, 2014-15.
Jennifer Stein, a spokeswoman for Peoria, said the crimes were gathered according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program.
The crimes were documented in individual police reports, and retained and available in accordance with public records laws, using the same reporting standards and processes as all other law enforcement agencies, she said.
Major crimes such as murder, rape and burglaries are included in the Uniform Crime Reporting.
But Mr. Ebratt said showing only the crimes reported on the UCR does not provide statistics for all crime.
There is less crime in the statistics when there aren’t enough officers to investigate crime, and staffing problems can impact the number of crimes detected, he said.
“There are crimes that aren’t included on (the UCR) list. My information is coming from officers on the streets,” he said. “A crime is only measured if it is reported or detected by police. If you’re not investigating crimes, say, against kids, then a crime hasn’t happened.”
Mr. Minter reported to the Council on July 5, that in comparing May 2015 to May 2016, the average response time to priority one calls increased by 11 seconds, noting that increases of less than 30 seconds are not statistically significant for cities the size of Peoria.
However, Mr. Ebratt said the report did not include the actual response times around that time frame, which was 6 minutes and 50 seconds in May 2015 and 7 minutes and 16 seconds in May 2016, according to Peoria Police Department activity summaries. Times for May were not available in the activity summaries.
The Department averaged 6 minutes and 49 seconds in 2015 and has averaged 7 minutes and 10 seconds so far this year, according to the activity summaries.
Many police departments shoot for an optimum goal of response time for priority one calls at around 5 minutes.
Priority 1 calls include life-threatening emergencies and major crimes in progress, such as shootings and armed robberies.
Mr. Ebratt said response times for the community of Vistancia in north Peoria have been as high as 13 minutes.
“Moving from Bell Road north to the 303, response times are up in that area,” he said. “The lack of officers available out there, it’s terrible.”
Conversely, Jay Davies, deputy director of the management services division at Peoria Police Department, said the city has an average priority one response time of 5 minutes and 23 seconds, with an average citywide goal of 4 minutes and 55 seconds.
Mr. Davies’ times are based on “Dispatch to Arrival,” or from when dispatch speaks to police to when police arrive at the site.
The account summaries are based on “Call entry to arrival,” or the time a call is received to when police arrive to the site.
Mr. Ebratt said that, on its face, is disingenuous.
“They seemed to parse the facts,” he said. “They excluded the initial call for service, which is the historical reporting methodology, with a calculation of response times beginning with the dispatch of officers.”
Mr. Davies said response times in north Peoria near Lake Pleasant are higher, reaching as much as 13 minutes.
But response times for the Vistancia community are not tracked and reported separately because it is part of a larger police district, he said.
“That district, which includes the area surrounding Lake Pleasant as well as portions of State Route 74, has had a response time in the 12 to 13 minute range dating back to 2011,” Mr. Davies said. “Vistancia is much closer to the populated areas of the city, and individual responses to that area are typically lower.”