When studying crime problems, analysists look for data that is accurate and plentiful. While calls for service data is rich in detail and easily accessible, it should not be used to study crime because of inaccuracies that can be found in its crime types, times, and locations (Boba, 2005).
When a call taker assigns a call type, it is based on the initial phone call with the crime reporter (Boba, 2005). The officer that first reaches the scene may find a different crime occurring. For instance, a reported theft may turn out to be vandalism, or a robbery may turn out to be a burglary. If the initial crime entered into the database is not changed, which it is often not, then calls for service data is inaccurate.

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The date and time when a crime occurred is not subjective, but the reporting of it is. Calls for service data does not necessarily ever know exactly when the crime occurred. The data is usually based on the time of the phone call reporting the crime, which may have been days earlier depending on the circumstances (Boba, 2005).

Calls for service data provides a location for the crime as well, but this too can be erroneous. The caller may be at a nearby location or give the incorrect address for a crime (Boba, 2005). If the location is not correct, it can be very misleading.

Some argue that call for service data should be used because it is “raw and messy,” which leaves interpretation to the analysist rather than being manipulated by law enforcement departments (Asher, 2016). While that is a consideration for crime problem analysis, it is preferred to have data that is correct from the start, which is not possible right now with the current state of calls for service data.

  • Asher, J. (2016, March 15). Numbers racket: There’s great crime data for nearly every city in the United States. Why is nobody using it? Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2016/03/calls_for_service_data_are_the_best_way_to_analyze_crime_why_don_t_cities.html
  • Boba, R. (2005). Crime Analysis and Crime Mapping. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.