MOBILE — The city of Mobile continues to fight against its reputation as one of the most dangerous municipalities in America after incorrect crime numbers were submitted to the FBI and published in reports nationwide. first came out with the rankings earlier this year. Local and national news outlets soon followed. Mobile Chief Paul Prine worked for months with the FBI to resolve the issue. This month, there was finally a correction, which dropped Mobile from the list of the top 15 most dangerous cities in America.

Prine said he does not think the mistake was intentional because the incorrect numbers came from an automated issue the city had with its records management system.

“I don’t believe there was any intentional reason to mislead the numbers,” said Prine. “ … But when MoneyGeek and Forbes place their article in their publication, it’s almost laughable, if it wasn’t so egregious, as it really attacks the tourism industry; it attacks businesses that are considering relocating to Mobile; it attacks the very notion that Mobile is not a safe place and those who would want to move to Mobile would now reconsider because of an erroneous report.”

The actual numbers showed in 2022 that Mobile was down 20% in homicides, 14% in sexual assaults, 25% in robberies and 8% in aggravated assaults.

While he understands the FBI is a source of information, Prine said he thinks it is important for news outlets to confirm with agencies that are mentioned in studies.

“There was a big injustice that was done, and I would like to see certainly these articles or these newspapers or any of these media outlets say, ‘Hey, we’re getting ready to publish this and it has dire consequences and you’re on the top 10,” he explained. “We just would like to confirm with the agency firsthand to make sure those numbers are correct.”

The article was published during the Mardi Gras season, and Prine said even one of his family friends heard about the report on the radio while in Texas. He said the friend was on the way to Mobile to celebrate Mardi Gras and was surprised to hear the news.

“So, this has a far-reaching effect across the country,” he said. “Everybody heard this, but then the retraction doesn’t really get pushed out and say, ‘Hey, you know, we stand corrected, and it wasn’t necessarily our fault; the numbers reported to the federal government were wrong. We would like you to see this and put emphasis on this.’ But unfortunately, that is never the case. They do a small retraction, and the retraction never gets the notoriety that the original article had.”

Prine said he is thankful outlets have made a retraction in the story, correcting the information. However, he fears some of the damage has already been done.

“Even the local media didn’t spend a lot of time or coverage on it and say, ‘Hey, Mobile was telling the truth all along and this is something we can all get behind the leadership in Mobile because they are doing exactly what they said they would do,” Prine continued. “Whether it is intentional or not intentional, or whether they don’t think it’s a story is very disingenuous, certainly to the citizenry of the viewing area. We understand that bad things sell press. But when we overreport crime, people kind of get it stuck in their mind – even if we are double-digits down in violent crime – they think, ‘Oh, man! It’s terrible here,’ and that is a perception issue.”

With law enforcement already battling perception issues, Prine said he plans to continue to focus on communication with the public.

So far in 2023, Prine said numbers are looking even better, with a 37% decrease in homicides so far and a 35% decrease in assaults that involve gunshots.

Prine has also communicated with police officers to remind them how well they are doing, despite the perception that Mobile is unsafe. He said it had been a learning lesson for the department in the strategies they use and how effective those strategies are.

The Mobile Police Department publishes an annual report showing all crime numbers.

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