Mayor Requests Audit of Nashville's Crime Stats - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: The Truth About Crime

Mayor Requests Audit of Nashville's Crime Stats

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Nashville Mayor Karl Dean Nashville Mayor Karl Dean
Former Metro Police Ronal Serpas Former Metro Police Ronal Serpas

By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

Last year, then-Police Chief Ronal Serpas ridiculed a Metro councilman's suggestion that someone ought to audit his crime statistics.

It didn't happen then.  

But now, after a NewsChannel 5 investigation, it may finally happen.

Late Friday, Mayor Karl Dean asked Nashville's internal auditor to take a hard look at how Nashville reports crime. The mayor says the public deserves to know the truth about crime.

Before he was picked for a new job in New Orleans, Ronal Serpas was adamant about his crime stats -- stats that showed six straight years of crime reductions in Nashville -- despite other crime numbers that showed other trends.

"What we see here is both of us are looking at the same sources of data and somehow coming up with different numbers," the chief said at the time. "Which one of us is right? I don't think it's that either one of us are wrong."

As NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted Serpas had told the public that burglaries were flat in 2008, that aggravated assaults were down, that rapes were down, that larcenies were down.

Yet, the FBI and TBI both say all of those were up.

"Yes," Serpas said, "but they also report fewer than we did. So why are you immediately jumping to the conclusion that either one of us is necessarily wrong?"

As to Serpas' claims of Nashville having one of the best records in the country for solving crimes, one expert called those highly questionable.

"It seems like they're fudging the stats," said Boston University criminologist Tom Nolan. "It seems like they are manipulating the system."

Now, facing questions about Serpas' six-year legacy, Mayor Dean wants the city's internal auditor to take an independent look at those stats.

"Public safety is a top priority," the mayor said in a statement, "and it's just as important that people feel they are safe. We as a government, and the public, need to know where we stand.

"An internal audit of Metro's crime reporting will be constructive to have and review."

Dean's letter to the Office of Internal Audit outlines a request to review and analyze the methodology used by MNPD to collect and report data on crime, compare that methodology to other police departments, and recommend any changes and the purpose for making changes in the way MNPD produces crime report statistics.

Interim Police Chief Steve Anderson welcomed the audit in the statement from Dean's office. "I am confident with the data as it is reported, but I want everyone else to be confident with it as well. If there's anything we can learn from it and improve, we will."

It's just what Metro Council member Jim Gotto had been requesting.

"There's a lot of questions being asked, and wouldn't it be good to put those questions to rest?" Gotto said recently.

Ironically, one of the first things that Serpas did when he was sworn in as the new police superintendent in New Orleans was to order an audit of how crime stats have been kept in that city.

E-mail: pwilliams@newschannel5.com

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