For nearly 80 years, the FBI has collected national crime data. The Uniform Crime Report is the method used to provide statistical data regarding violent and victim crimes. The UCR provides information regarding “Part 1 Crimes” which are the eight personal and property crimes that the FBI considers to be “major.”

As a police chief for more than a dozen years, it has been my responsibility to review our agency’s UCR statistics. As such, I have argued that the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report is a flawed system. My argument against this imperfect system has been its impact on the crime rate. Within the UCR, these eight crimes all have an equal value. That means that a murder has the same value as a shoplifting theft when calculating the crime rate. The gathering of statistics utilizing this deeply-flawed system is ending in 2021. It is being replaced with NIBRS (National Incident Based Reporting System).

However, what will not change in the NIBRS system is that the information will only represent crimes reported to the police. As a community, we must realize this is not the whole picture.

During a speaking engagement, a participant said, “I would have thought that rapes were more of an issue than what you shared.” At that moment, I realized I needed to be more intentional when sharing statistics and information — especially with regards to crime reported numbers.

The 2016 UCR, which measures rapes that are known to police, estimated that there were 90,185 rapes reported to law enforcement in 2015. Conversely, the 2016 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which measures sexual assaults and rapes that may not have been reported to the police, found that there were 431,840 incidents of rape or sexual assault in 2015. That tells us that, for every rape reported, another 4.7 rapes are never reported to the police.

The state of Maine’s Department of Public Safety publishes an exceptional “Crime in Maine” report each year, which provides annual and jurisdictional comparisons. Maine defines rape as “A person is guilty of gross sexual assault if that person engages in a sexual act with another person and the person submits as a result of compulsion.” M.R.S.A. Title 17-A, § 253.

“Crime in Maine” reports that during 2016, there were 383 rapes in our state, which is one rape every 22 hours and 56 minutes. While the report does state that many rapes go unreported for various reasons, using the information from the National Victimization Survey, it is quite likely that Maine had 1,800 rapes in 2016, which is one rape every 4.9 hours.

I understand that there are many reasons why a person may decide not to report a rape to the police. To these people, I say that law enforcement stands ready to take the report when you decide the time is right.

I am committed to doing better; to changing the way I discuss crime within my community — with the goal of helping people understand that these are only the “reported crimes.” I am committed to helping our community become more aware of the vital sexual assault services that the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS) provides, as we all work to stop these traumatic forms of abuse. I hope people will be inspired during this awareness month to be engaged in the efforts that put a stop to sexual violence.

With the belief that prevention is one of the best ways to avoid being assaulted, my agency offers a self-defense course called Auburn RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) multiple times each year. This award-winning course, which is intended to empower women to protect themselves, is taught by Auburn Police Department officers and some of their spouses. It is designed to help women by teaching a strong foundation of awareness, risk reduction and avoidance strategies. For more information, visit: www.auburnrad.com

Phillip Crowell Jr. is chief of the Auburn Police Department and a former chair of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

Phil Crowell


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