Factcheck: Whipple’s claims of large reduction in crime were misleading

Mayor Brandon Whipple claimed Wichita's crime had been cut in half since his time in office. Factfinder 12 checked the numbers and the source of his information
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 10:41 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple’s recent claim that crime has been reduced by 50 percent in the city during his term is misleading, FactFinder 12 has learned.

Whipple’s claim stems from numbers on the Federal Bureau of Investigation crime data explorer of crime reported by the Wichita Police Department between 2011-2021. That data shows a precipitous drop in crime between 2020 and 2021. Whipple was sworn in as mayor in January 2020.

He announced last month that he is seeking reelection.

Elsewhere on that FBI website, an explanation is offered that states the crime data explorer represents reported crime and is not an exhaustive report of all crime that occurs.

“It’s important to consider the various factors that lead to crime reporting in a community before interpreting the data,” the explanation reads. “Without these considerations, the available data can be deceiving.”

The website lists population size and density; economic conditions; employment rates; prosecutorial, judicial and correctional policies; administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement; citizens’ attitudes toward crime and policing; and the effective strength of the police force as factors that could skew or falsely present the data.

The Wichita Police Department confirmed to FactFinder 12 that Whipple’s claims, and the FBI’s available numbers, were incorrect. In fact, violent crime has mostly remained stagnant during Whipple’s term, with slight decreases between 2020-22.

Police say there were 22 homicides in Wichita in 2020 and 2021 between Jan. 1-June 6, dropping to 19 last year in the first six months of the year. Rapes went from 187 to 180, then 183 in 2022 in the same six-month time frame. Aggravated assaults have dropped, from 1,792 in 2020 to 1,659 last year.

So far in 2023, there have been 10 homicides, 184 rapes and 1,672 aggravated assaults, according to the WPD.

Here are the yearly totals for those crimes between 2020-22:

  • 2020: 55 homicides, 435 rapes, 4,578 aggravated assaults.
  • 2021: 47 homicides, 438 rapes, 4,278 aggravated assaults
  • 2022: 34 homicides, 431 rapes, 3,953 aggravated assaults.

The department said data is queried differently by each entity. While the Wichita Police Department queries case data based on the number of incidents, not the number of victims in each incident, the FBI and Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) query the data based on the number of victims. It is possible that a single incident can have multiple victims.

“Based on our research on other law enforcement agency data, it appears this is not unique to Wichita,” WPD Lieutenant Aaron M. Moses told FactFinder 12. “WPD conducted a review of other ... agencies’ reported data versus the data on the FBI crime data explorer. Oklahoma City, Topeka, Kansas City (Kan.), Aurora (Ill.), Des Moines, Tulsa and Omaha were all checked.

“All agencies had a different final internal report number than the FBI crime data explorer.”

For his part, Whipple claims he made an honest mistake in selecting the FBI data to present his Wichita crime statistics.

“I was reviewing the public FBI crime statistics and noticed the data showed Wichita had a dramatic decrease in violent crime when compared to previous years in the same database,” Whipple told FactFinder 12. “I confirmed the data with our WPD data analysts and was informed that the universal reporting system is different than that used by the WPD, as their data is more detailed and fluid.”

“However, I was not led to believe there were any issues with the FBI database, only that the data was presented using a different methodology. I chose to use the FBI database because it’s a published, third-party standard that clearly shows statistical trends, commonly used for analysis when compared to other cities and states.”