Solving Crime Requires Transparent Crime Data
By Joel P. Engardio
Much of the publicly available crime data in San Francisco doesn’t tell the full story, especially when it comes to domestic violence crimes.
There were 131 felony domestic violence cases in the final quarter last year — and 113 were dismissed. Of the 19 cases involving children, 13 were dismissed.
That’s why Supervisor Catherine Stefani passed legislation that will force the district attorney’s office and the police department to provide the public with quarterly reports on how often domestic violence offenders are arrested and prosecuted.
Here’s why the legislation was needed: Our district attorney’s office has a data dashboard called “ DA Stat.” But it doesn’t mention what happens to cases beyond the initial filing of charges. The public deserves to see sentencing information and final disposition — because it’s the outcome of a case that matters.
An open, disciplined tracking of cases from start to end should be a requirement for every district attorney’s office. Without it, people on both sides of the crime debate have to rely on emotional anecdotes instead of data on actual outcomes.
Transparent crime data that is easily accessible to the public is essential for improving public safety.
We need to know:
- How many crimes are actually committed and how criminals are being held accountable.
- How many people released before trial commit a new crime.
- How often diversion programs rehabilitate people as a preferable alternative to jail time.
- How often jail is warranted for a repeat offender who has already been offered parole and a diversion program.
Lessons From Chicago
Maybe we can learn from Chicago, where Kim Foxx is a progressive district attorney. She determines which crimes get prosecuted — and she knows that transparency is what will build credibility and support for her justice reform policies. That’s why Foxx provides her constituents an online data dashboard. It lets residents see what’s happening with thousands of cases, from initial charge through final sentencing.
Why don’t we have anything as comprehensive as this in San Francisco? Our district attorney’s office has a dashboard called “ DA Stat “ that can’t compare to what Chicago has.
San Francisco lacks accessible data because City Hall fumbled the creation of the Justice Tracking Information System. After two decades in the making, it still doesn’t fully function. We sit at the center of Silicon Valley and tech advancement, yet City Hall’s attempt at public safety data sharing has been a debacle.
Good Data Matters
Safety and justice should go together. Justice reform is necessary. And for it to work, residents must feel confident public officials are doing their job to keep everyone safe. This requires transparent and accessible crime data residents can trust.
Good data would help residents understand what is really happening in our district attorney’s office, the police department, and the courts. That’s why we must ask officials to put all crime data in the the open.
Originally published at https://engardio.com on November 14, 2021.