- Philly police have been inaccurately logging crimes with unknown locations to Disney World.
- The inaccurate logging practice appears to have been going on for more than a decade.
- Crime analysts don’t support this practice because it can encourage laziness and create confusion.
For more than a decade, when Philiadelphia officers couldn’t determine where a crime occurred, they logged it as happening at Fantasyland, part of the Disney Work park in Florida, NBC10 in Philiadelphia first reported.
Over the last six years, more than 5,000 crimes have been plotted to the park — more crimes than were pegged to any other location in Philly, the outlet reported.
When police write reports, they log the GPS coordinates where the crime occurred so analysts can map out the data.
The practice of using a fake location for unknowns not only creates a false record, but having that option also creates an environment in which officers don’t feel they have to put in the extra effort to accurately map the incidents, Christopher Herrmann, a former crime analyst supervisor with the New York City Police Department, told Insider.
“It’s pretty common that unknowns go somewhere,” he said. “As a former supervisor, I always got frustrated because it gives the people doing that work sort of an easy out. In the long term, it’s not a big deal because it’s a small number, but it discourages them to dig deeper.”
Herrmann said police departments should be able to accurately map at least 95% of crimes. At some departments that have been crime mapping for a long time, like the NYPD, the data can be over 99% accurate.
When there are unknowns, though, it’s a better practice to log them somewhere that is clearly not the location of a crime — like the middle of the Atlantic ocean — and not at Disney World or even police headquarters, which is also a common practice.
“You don’t want that data to get out because then you can give Disney World a black eye,” Herrmann said. “The preferred method would be to just to put it the middle of the ocean.”
Usually, when analysts are reviewing the data internally they are able to determine that crimes mapped to an unusual location — like Disney World — are not accurate.
When that data is requested by a member of the public, though, it could be less clear, he said.
“You’d end up with a hotspot at Fantasyland at Disney World,” he said.
Disney World didn’t immediately return a request for comment from Insider.
The Philadelphia Police Department’s director of research and analysis, Kevin Thomas, told NBC10 that the practice of mapping unknowns this way was started more than 10 years ago.
“In no way was this meant to be in any way humorous,” Thomas told the outlet.