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No, Lubbock Is Not The Third Most Dangerous City In The U.S.

Weston Davis/Texas Tech Public Media

Texas Tech Public Media sat down with Lubbock Police Department's Public Information Officer, Allison Matherly, to discuss crimes rates in Lubbock and to answer the question: Is Lubbock actually the third most dangerous city in the country?

The Lubbock Police Department released its annual report for 2020. Can you highlight some of the key takeaways from that report?

Well, there's a couple of things that we saw in 2020, some of the positives is that we saw an 11% decrease in crimes against property, which is one of the crimes that we see that affects our citizens, pretty widespread across the city. We also saw a 10% decrease in crashes between 2019 and 2020, which is also a great thing.

On the flip side, we did see a slight increase in crimes against persons, which was a 2% increase. We saw is a pretty drastic increase in homicides, unfortunately, we did see 41 homicides in 2020, which was the highest number we'd seen in many years. Some of the things we think with that could be related to is COVID. People were cooped up a little bit more last year. And we really do think that played a part in last year's homicide numbers.

So domestic violence, domestic disputes?

We did see a high number of domestic violence homicides last year, that number was 11. That was the number one homicide reason last year.

There was another report put out by Safeway, that ranked Lubbock as the third most dangerous city in America, right under Memphis, Tennessee, and Anchorage, Alaska. Is this portrayal accurate?

So the numbers for this Safewise study were based on the FBI is crime report numbers that they put out every year—those numbers are self-reported by the Lubbock Police Department to the FBI.

There are a couple things that I think are important to know about those numbers. First off, they are not meant to be compared to city to city. That's something that the FBI states when they release these numbers, because the reality is that while there is a unified crime reporting mechanism, we're all supposed to be reporting things the exact same way, it's really difficult to say that every police department and every law enforcement agency across the country is interpreting everything the exact same. What it is great for is looking at one department compared to itself over time.

So when we put out that 2020 annual report and our annual reports in several years, they are based on those same numbers. So when you see that data, we are comparing against ourselves in the same manner, in the same reporting mechanism, because we can guarantee our consistency with those reports, as opposed to with other agencies.

The other thing or a couple of other things about this study specifically, is not all agencies across the country are on the FBI NIBR system—which is the National Incident Based Reporting System. Compliance with that was not required until January of 2021. The most recent data that's been released is from 2019, and that is what that Safewise study used for that report.

So, if you go and you read into the methodology on their report, they say that any state that had less than 25% of their agency's reporting was not considered. And any agency that was not reporting through NIBRS at that moment in time, which was very many of them, was not considered. So it's really hard for us to even say how many agencies and how many metropolitan areas were not included in that data at all…

We would highly recommend looking at things like our annual report, if you really want to know what's going on here in the city of Lubbock, and what types of crimes are happening. We are very committed to transparency. And that's why we do put out this annual report. It's not something we're required to do. We want to make sure that our citizens understand what's going on around them and have the ability to look at those numbers for themselves and interpret them and not through a lens of a company that sells alarm systems, which is what Safewise, who put out that report, is.

Lubbock’s annual report shows the homicides were up 105% from 2019. And one of our listeners emailed in a question, wondering why homicides are not broken down into categories like shootings, stabbings, etc. Can you explain the department's reasoning for this reporting?

I don't think it's that there's a specific reason we don't currently report those numbers in that way publicly. It is something we do look at internally, looking at stabbings, versus shootings versus blunt force traumas. What we find a little bit more telling often is looking at the reasoning for the homicide—those would be the domestic violence cases, the disputes the narcotics, it tells a little bit more about what led up to that homicide. And we just feel it shows a more important picture. I think we'll definitely look at reporting it that way in the future as well if the public is interested in hearing that.