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FDLE BACKS TAMPA CRIME STATISTICS

A state audit of the Tampa Police Department's crime statistics found a few flaws but nothing significant enough to change the city's crime rate.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the report Monday, and Tampa police Chief Steve Hogue said he was pleased, but not surprised, by the findings. "Basically, our crime statistics are completely accurate," Hogue said.

The Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability has not yet completed a similar review of Tampa's crime statistics.

The FDLE found the statistics had an error rate of 0.4 percent, a number that Hogue considers statistically insignificant.

Tampa police reported that crime went down 36.04 percent since 2002. The FDLE review found that crime had gone down 35.9 percent - a difference of less than 1 percent.

The audit began at the request of Brandon Republican state Sen. Ronda Storms, who said she received complaints from constituents about the accuracy of the department's records.

The FDLE made two recommendations for the Police Department. First, police employees should give more details on reports when calls first come into the department. Second, complicated reports should include a short summary of the case to make it easier to classify crimes.

Hogue said he was pleased that neither recommendation dealt specifically with crime statistics, and he questioned the motives for the review. "I do not know what Ronda Storms' agenda was," he said. "We'll see."

Reached by phone Monday, Storms said she had not seen the FDLE's report, but she felt it was her duty to pass along residents' concerns. She said she was looking forward to the report by the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability and would comment after it was complete.

"If it turns out to be incorrect then yay, everybody's vindicated," she said of the complaints. "Either way I have to respond. I think it's my ethical obligation."

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