Discrepancy discovered between Mobile, FBI crime stats for city

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 11:51 AM CST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - There is an apparent discrepancy between the Police Department’s tabulation of homicides and statistics compiled by the FBI.

According to the agency’s Uniform Crime Report, Mobile had 111 murders and non-negligent homicides in Mobile in 2021. That is more than twice the 51 and the city has reported.

The FBI report also has much higher numbers for rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

This comes on the heels of a study declaring the city of Mobile as the second-most dangerous city in America. That study was based on the numbers recorded in the FBI report.

The reason for the discrepancy is unclear. An FBI spokeswoman could not immediately provide an explanation. Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine said he suspects it is due to confusion over the FBI’s new system for gathering crime data and the way the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is compiling the data from local jurisdictions.

Prine pointed to the methodology for the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, indicating that some offenses may have been counted more than once.

“It is over-counting,” he said. “I don’t necessarily agree with that.”

But Prine said the numbers in the department’s annual report showing 51 homicides are the true figures. And he added that is the case with other crime statistics.

“I am confident in telling you that the information we gave you, as it relates to year to date, raw numbers – those are numbers that are compared to 2021,” he said. “And we stand by those numbers. As you can see, there’s a huge discrepancy in the two numbers, but that doesn’t really dictate or determine the actual crime stats here locally.”

Jason Johnson, a spokesman for Mayor Sandy Stimpson, said the administration also is trying to determine the source of the discrepancy.

This chart shows the discrepancy between 2021 crime statistics reported by the Mobile Police...
This chart shows the discrepancy between 2021 crime statistics reported by the Mobile Police Department and the FBI.(FBI and City of Mobile)
This chart shows the discrepancy between 2021 crime statistics reported by the Mobile Police...
This chart shows the discrepancy between 2021 crime statistics reported by the Mobile Police Department and the FBI.(FBI and City of Mobile)

The Moneygeek.com study raised eyebrows with its revelation that crime in 2021 cost Mobile $8,014 per resident, a conclusion derived from taking the estimated societal costs of crime multiplied by the number of offenses recorded various crime categories and then dividing by the population. Melody Kasulis, an analyst with Moneygeek, told FOX010 News that the cost figures come from a pair of academic researchers who published a study in 2010.

“We really tried to stick to the data to try to provide a new lens to look at, you know, what crime does to communities,” she told FOX10 News.

For instance, the estimated cost of murder is about $10 million per victim. Calculating the cost of murder in Mobile would involve multiplying that figure by the number of homicides and then dividing by the population. But using the FBI figures dramatically overstates that cost if the homicide totals are more than double the real figure.

“It’s counting more offenses and incidents related around one scenario, and I think it’s unfair,” Prine said. “And I can assure you that every agency, not only in the state of Alabama but probably in the country, are having the same problem. You know, we count real numbers, we count raw numbers.”

Notwithstanding what the true numbers are, some Mobile residents said they believe crime is a big problem in Mobile and surrounding cities. Kayla Watkins said someone murdered the father of her sister’s child a few months ago in Prichard.

Closer to home in Mobile, Watkins added, recent downtown shootings at a nightclub and during the New Year’s Eve celebration have made her leery.

“After the shooting on New Year’s Eve – I do come downtown a lot – and I’m like, well, maybe I shouldn’t, you know?” she said. “Because I was actually downtown, I think the weekend of Thanksgiving, and I was like right around the corner from Paparazzi (Lounge) when that shooting happened.”

Mobile resident Ahlyria Williamson told FOX0 News she does not personally feel unsafe but adds that she believes crime is getting worse.

“I really feel like it’s Chicago down here, but probably not worse than in Chicago or other cities, but I feel like it’s getting there,” she said.

Not everyone feels intimated by crime. In fact, the city is preparing for big crowds for the Mardi Gras parades that start Friday.

Prine says crime has been trending down since 2021.

“I’ll tell you – feel safe,” he said. “We’ve already given you the numbers – 20 percent down in homicides; 20 percent down year to date in armed robberies; 11 percent down in sexual assaults. When you take the aggravated assaults, we were 5 percent down.”

Updated at 5;57 p.m. with substantial new information.


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