The Scottsdale Police Department tried to set the record straight after a startling sexual assault statistic appeared in an investigative piece by a national news outlet.
BuzzFeed reported that nearly half of all of Scottsdale's rape cases between 2009 and 2013 were labeled as "unfounded."
An unfounded case means either it was determined no crime occurred or it was out of the agency's jurisdiction.
"I was a little alarmed that we were featured in there, especially after reading the article," said assistant chief Scott Popp of Scottsdale police.
The department felt the BuzzFeed story painted them in a particularly bad light after it lumped them in with a Baltimore agency the article said failed to even investigate a number of rape cases, before labeling them as unfounded.
Popp says the numbers do not tell the whole story.
"Our issue was not that we didn't investigate crimes. It was a period of time where we cleared them with the uniformed crime reporting incorrectly," Popp said.
Each year law enforcement agencies can send their crime statistics and outcomes of crimes to the FBI.
Buzzfeed said it used those statistics from 2009 to 2013 and found 46 percent of all Scottsdale's rape cases were labeled unfounded, meaning they determined a crime did not occur.
That number is much higher than the national average.
"We took it upon ourselves to do a review of all of our sex assault cases," said Popp.
It was during that review a couple of years ago they discovered the issue.
It's not that cases were neglected. It's just that Popp says it was discovered they were categorized incorrectly and some of the cases labeled unfounded should have been marked as inactive.
While the cases were fixed in Scottsdale's system, they cannot be changed elsewhere.
"Once you report your stats to the FBI, the FBI does not go back and amend those stats," Popp said.
So Buzzfeed's reporting of that number, 46 percent, was not inaccurate but Scottsdale police says it was out of context.
"We have a very thorough and robust investigative process and it's far different than what was reported in the Baltimore case where cases weren't being assigned for follow up," said Popp.
Once they fixed the issue, the assistant chief says the number of unfounded cases dropped by more than half to 20 percent in 2015, which puts them closer to the national average.
The Scottsdale Police Department wants to assure sexual assault victims, despite how the stats might appear, they take all claims of sexual assault seriously.
"If anybody comes forward with any allegation, we don't question the allegation. We initiate the investigative process immediately," Popp said.
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