The Truth of the FBI Crime Data

Shawn Gordon
4 min readApr 18, 2024


Politicians love it when the press covers the crime statistics put out by SafeWise. First, understand that SafeWise sells security solutions. They provide reviews, comparisons, and guides on various home security products and services, such as alarm systems, surveillance cameras, smart locks, and monitoring services. The report aims to attract eyeballs to sell its products and services. To that end, they take a lot of shortcuts with the data. If your city looks good on the report, then it is in the politician’s interest to hype it up and associate themselves with the rating despite having little to nothing to do with it. These numbers, however, are relevant only to each city in the list; they don’t show the PART I and PART II crimes (they leave off PART II entirely) across years so you can see the change.

In the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook PART I crimes include:

  1. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter
  2. Rape
  3. Robbery
  4. Aggravated assault
  5. Burglary
  6. Larceny-theft
  7. Motor vehicle theft
  8. Arson

And PART II crimes include:

  1. Simple assault
  2. Forgery
  3. Fraud
  4. Embezzlement
  5. Stolen property (buying, receiving, possessing)
  6. Vandalism
  7. Prostitution
  8. Sex offenses (except for forcible rape)
  9. Drug violations (sales, manufacturing, possession)
  10. Gambling
  11. Offenses against the family and children
  12. Driving under the influence
  13. Liquor violations
  14. Drunkenness
  15. Disorderly conduct
  16. Vagrancy
  17. Other offenses (trespass, public nuisance, unlawful use or possession of explosives, etc…)

The SafeWise report is only on PART I crimes. Keep something in mind when you look at the crime numbers. They require two things to happen. They require that the police be involved with the crime and log it, and then it requires that the city self-report it. If you don’t catch the crime or report it, then you look even safer on the report. The best way to have low crime numbers is not to enforce the law.

On the same FBI page, they very specifically say NOT to use this data to rank locations or make comparisons:

California didn’t submit data in 2018

Rancho Santa Margarita didn’t start submitting data till 2021 according to the FBI:

The organization of the FBI website is a mess; it’s very hard to find details. On one page, I found that violent crime had risen from 12 to 18 incidents between 2021 and 2022 (the most recent numbers). Property crime had risen from 157 to 227 for the same period. The raw numbers for 2022 on a population of 46,000 was 702 crimes, which included 4 kidnappings, nearly 100 assaults, a homicide, 26 burglaries, and 19 forgeries/counterfeiting. There are other crimes listed, but that’s a quick summary.


What did we learn? The crime numbers are from 2022, not 2023. They are self-reported, which means the crimes have to be investigated by law enforcement, logged, and reported. Crime in raw numbers is up from 2021 to 2022 in Rancho Santa Margarita, and according to the FBI, our law enforcement wasn’t reporting before that, and they are only reporting PART I crimes.

Our politicians trot these crime comparisons out whenever there is an election, without context and without showing the details of the crime and year-over-year comparisons. They will try to take credit for being in a top spot on the comparison list, but as we saw, the FBI does not want these numbers to be used this way. When the numbers are bad, they will blame California’s propositions that let criminals out of jail.

The reality is that our local city councils have almost nothing to do with the crime numbers, good or bad. They are required to maintain a minimum level of law enforcement as a city. They can approve additional staffing, but our city council, specifically Carol Gamble and Tony Beall, nixed the two preventative crime positions that had been opened up around 2016. RSM is running on the minimum, and that is because our law enforcement costs are slowly decimating the city reserves and will bankrupt us in less than 10 years if nothing changes. Don’t be fooled.



Shawn Gordon

All things data, developer, sustainable energy enthusiast as well as prolific musician.