Click on each city in the map to see detailed crime data from 2016.
But the city’s statistics raise significant questions, especially the reported numbers for aggravated assault (eight) and sex assault (three), according to Eterno and fellow criminologist Dr. Eli Silverman, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Together, Eterno and Silverman have written a book about the manipulation of crime statistics and agreed to review information and statistics obtained from Buckeye police.
“Eight (aggravated assaults) seems, well, I mean it seems ridiculous,” Eterno said. “I would assume the cops themselves would debate these figures.”
The numbers caused Silverman to ask, “What kind of safeguards do the police department have to oversee and ensure these (statistics) are right?”
Inside Buckeye police, sources tell ABC15 that there’s been an effort to spin crime statistics by the administration. In September, police insiders sent the city manager an anonymous letter that alleged widespread corruption inside the department, including the routine falsification of statistics by changing the reported nature of crimes.
The city has hired an outside investigator to probe the letter’s allegations. The investigation is still ongoing, officials said.
Every year, police departments across the country submit their statistics to the FBI to be included in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, or UCR. According to UCR, the violent crime rate is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.
Aggravated assaults are by far the most common violent crime reported by law enforcement agencies. Usually, aggravated assaults involve victims who are seriously injured or when weapons are used. Cities the size of Buckeye typically report anywhere from several dozen to hundreds of them a year, statistics show.
Experts said that’s why under-classifying aggravated assaults is one of the most popular ways to manipulate and lower UCR violent crime statistics.
ABC15 sent a list of those cases to Chief Hall to ask why they weren’t included.
In an email, Hall said Arizona’s aggravated assault laws “many times don’t fit the UCR criteria” for counting them in the FBI’s statistics. The chief sent ABC15 a copy of Arizona’s statutes andhighlighted all of the lawshe claims “don’t apply to UCR.”
One example: Domestic violence cases where the suspect “impedes the breathing or circulation of blood” of the victim.
“Yeah, no, that’s an aggravated assault,” said Eterno; and both he and Silverman agreed that Buckeye seems to be exaggerating and stretching the exemptions. “The highlighting of all of those areas they are not including, most of those probably should be included.”
Here is a sample of cases uncovered by ABC15 that were not counted in Buckeye’s aggravated assault statistics.
- On October 24, 2017, a suspect was arrested for shoving his roommate to the ground, and punching him repeatedly in the face. When the victim got up and tried to get away, the suspect pulled a pocket knife and held it to the victim’s neck while threatening to kill him. [In response, Buckeye claims this doesn’t count for UCR because the suspect “entered a private residence.”]
- On May 16, 2017, a man was arrested for pinning a woman down and punching her in the face. The woman suffered multiple injuries, including a black eye. The suspect also was accused of strangling the victim until she lost consciousness.
- On 5/15/2017, a Buckeye firefighter was attacked by his girlfriend’s estranged husband. The suspect punched the firefighter in the face. The victim suffered broken eye socket bones, a broken nose, needed stitches and was referred to a plastic surgeon.
In an email, Chief Halls said his staff recently identified two new cases that should have been included in the stats last year. ABC15 also sent Hall a list of nearly a dozen arrests for sex crimes last year -- many which don’t appear to have been counted in the statistics.
UPDATE (5/16/18): In response to the sex crimes sent by ABC15, in an email sent on May 8, Buckeye officials wrote there were additional sex assault cases that were "not properly coded" and should have been counted. The sex assault reports sent by ABC15 also show that Buckeye undercounted sex assaults in 2015.