Florida to consolidate statewide crime info in one database

Published: Apr. 23, 2018 at 5:53 PM CDT
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Florida will begin consolidating crime data from multiple agencies including prisons, law enforcement, and courts all in one easy-to-access database.

The goal is to get a better understanding of crime trends in the state to help inform policy decisions, but some criminal justice experts say interpreting those numbers will be a challenge in itself.

Crime data in Florida is scattered among many agencies, making it hard to see the big picture.

"So, it might as well be, at times, nowhere," said Representative Chris Sprowls.

The new system will require local law enforcement, clerk of the courts, state attorneys, public defenders, local jails, and the Department of Corrections to submit statistics to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Lawmakers called it the gold standard in crime reporting.

Florida has the third highest prison population in the country, costing $2.3 billion a year. The hope is the new data will help reduce the number of prisoners by helping lawmakers make better decisions.

Barney Bishop with the Florida Smart Justice Alliance says while he believes the data will be useful, lawmakers shouldn't take the first year's reports at face value.

"The reality of it is, is that academics are not going to be able to look at that data until you have two or three years so they can look at what trends are. But the most important issue is going to be the criminal justice system really blind? I mean, is there discrimination that's going on?" Bishop asked.

State Attorney of Florida's Second Judicial Circuit, Jack Campbell agrees, adding lawmakers also need to be cautious in the way they interpret the data.

"We want to make sure that we're counting it right, that we're defining things right so that when we make conclusions, they're sound and they're not just perversions," he said.

Agencies that fail to comply with the new reporting requirements will be ineligible for state funding for five years.

The law takes effect July 1st. The data will be made available to the public on FDLE's website.

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