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Experts: Crime Statistics In Political Ads May Mislead Voters

Police officers talk together.
City of Tallahassee
All 30 members of the Citizens Advisory Council will meet tomorrow to attend a workshop on the use of force Tallahassee Police Department officers face daily.

Democrats and Republicans are using Tallahassee’s crime rate in political attacks, but experts say that could mislead voters. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is going after his opponent Andrew Gillum. He says the city’s crime rate has topped the state during Gillum’s term as mayor. 

Gillum’s former chief of staff Dustin Daniels is running for Tallahassee mayor. In a recent advertisement Daniels calls Tallahassee “the highest crime city in Florida.” Campaigns are likely using data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, or UCR, which is the agency’s semi-annual crime study. But the FBI itself strongly discourages using the reports for comparisons between cities. Last October County Commissioners held a workshop with local law enforcement to better understand what the UCR really means. Andrew Johnson is an assistant to the County Administrator.

“UCR is not a perfect measurement of crime, but then again, it’s not really intended to be. What it is intended to be is to reflect the general indicator of criminality within a particular jurisdiction within a defined period of time”, says Johnson. 

Johnson says UCR data shouldn’t be applied in ranking cities because the data is self-reported and different agencies use different reporting methods. The UCR says Tallahassee’s overall crime rate has dropped 15 percent since last year. 

Eleanor Clark is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in International Affairs and Creative Writing. Before interning at WFSU, she spent time in New York City as the Civic Engagement Coordinator for Columbia University’s high school program. Some of Eleanor’s favorite things are watching the Great British Bake Off, eating soup dumplings, and spending time with her dog, Cooper. Follow her on Twitter: @Nell_Clark_