Chief Craft comments on most violent ranking

by Patrick Flanagan

Mulling a run for sheriff, the police chief disputes a recent blog citing Lafayette as a main contributor to Louisiana's ranking as the nation’s fifth most dangerous state.

A recent blog posted by 24/7 Wall St. ranked Louisiana the nation’s fifth most dangerous state, and according to the report, Lafayette played a significant role in our state's violent crime stats.

Using data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the blog attributed Louisiana’s top 5 selection to “Criminal activity in New Orleans and Lafayette, which both reported some of the higher violent crime rates among large U.S. metro areas, also contributed largely to Louisiana’s crime problem.”

The accuracy of our city’s inclusion in this unsavory ranking seems even more likely given the recent attacks of Tyler Harper and Andre Broussard in Downtown Lafayette. Yet, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft, in a statement issued to The IND, refutes those claims.

Here’s what Craft — who recently told The Daily Advertiser he's considering a run for sheriff — had to say:

Each year, I am questioned about the release of our crime stats. The question I usually get is, “What do you contribute the increase or decrease to?” I have always said that I do not like to relate increases or decreases to any one thing in particular. There are many reasons crime rates rise or drop, such as the economy, unemployment, programs (or lack of them) and available resources being just a few. This is not the first time Lafayette has been rated as having a high crime rate. Usually we find flawed data or different interpretations of data.

I checked the [FBI’s] UCR stats for 2013 and found that New Orleans, Shreveport, and Baton Rouge all have higher crime rates than Lafayette. I am not sure why the article mentions New Orleans and Lafayette only. One reason may be that experts for years have indicated that the UCR’s are flawed because law enforcement agencies are not required to submit numbers, but do so on a voluntary basis. One website that I checked even had a disclaimer that posted the following: “The FBI cautions the data users against comparing yearly statistical data solely on the basis of their population coverage. The comparisons made herein are thus, only meaningful upon further examination of all variables that affect crime in each reported city, state or other reported jurisdiction.” You will note that Lafayette ranks 4th and we are the 4th largest city in the state.

Not all agencies report crimes in the same consistent manner. For example, The Lafayette Police Department considers items taken from the inside of an unlocked car a “burglary.” Other agencies from different states may not report such a crime in that manner based off of how their state laws are written. Some cities don’t take a report on a theft of fuel, whereas other cities do.

Finally, I took the liberty to compare Lafayette’s crime rate with the city of Chicago on ... indicating that Chicago has a lower crime rate than the city of Lafayette. I just don’t believe this to be true. Those websites have been contacted and notified of the inconsistencies, but continue to rate Lafayette in a poor light. Not sure what else could be done.

Craft adds that the 2014 crime stats, which have yet to be released, show a drop in Lafayette’s violent crimes somewhere in the ballpark of 7 or 8 percent.