HPD unveils new system that records crime in city

In the City of Houston, crime figures are almost certain to be going up, but not for the reason most might think.

With the stated goal of hyper-accurate, in-depth data collection, Houston Police Department has changed the way law breaking is recorded.

"We believe it's going to provide the community a much greater sense of what's actually going on, what kind of crimes are happening," said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

For years, Houston has utilized a system known as Uniform Crime Summary Reporting which placed offenses into just eight categories.

Last June, HPD transitioned to the National Incident Based Reporting System which records much more, 52 specific crimes.

"This will give you really in-depth information which, I believe, will help you as a community be safer," said Acevedo.

In the past, when an incident occurred involving multiple, separate crimes, Acevedo says only the most serious violation was recorded.

That too is changing.

For example, under the new system, an armed robber arrested in possession of illegal narcotics while driving a stolen car would be recorded as four separate violations, not one.

"One incident, but you will see four different crime types," confirmed Diana Poor, HPD's Chief Data Officer.

"We want to caution the community that what may look like more crime, really isn't. We are just breaking down and counting the crime in many more categories," said Acevedo.

"Be careful in your comparisons in crime rates and crime reporting," urged Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard.

While the new system delivers the ability to drill more deeply into lawbreaking trends, Acevedo concedes the capacity to accurately compare crime now with years past will be limited. 

"I don't care how I stack up against other cities. I care about how we are doing," said Acevedo.

Chief Acevedo says Houston is hardly alone in the crime recording transition process.

He says 454 law enforcement agencies in Texas have adopted the same system, on the strong recommendation of the FBI.