The Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) has decided to discontinue its semi-annual report on violent crime in big American and Canadian cities because it feared that its data was being misused. Researchers have deplored the decision and contended that timely data is needed “to dispel myths and misunderstandings about violent crime levels and trends across the country.”

The 70-year old MCCA is composed of the chiefs and sheriffs of 78 large US and Canadian cities.

Richard Rosenfeld implores the MCCA to resume its reporting on crime data in this article published in The Crime Report:

What about the concerns of some chiefs that their crime data might be misused or viewed out of proper context?

Those concerns are understandable and apply, of course, to all data on important public issues. But the costs to public understanding and public policy are far outweighed by the benefits of getting crime data into the hands of users as quickly as possible.

Without comprehensive and representative crime data, we are left with unreliable anecdotes that can be cherry-picked to support almost any view of crime and its causes and consequences, no matter how misguided.

Besides, the MCCA member departments dutifully send their crime data to the UCR, so the issue is not whether the data might be misused, but how soon. The periodic and timely release of representative crime data is the best way to raise the level of public debate and inform policy responses regarding abrupt changes in crime rates that are not captured by any other authoritative source.

The days when crime data were considered the personal property of the local police chief are long gone. Crime data are an indispensable public good for policy-relevant research on crime and justice.