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The New Orleans Police Department?under-counted sex crime data that was furnished to the FBI for its national reporting program for the years 2021 and 2022, department officials said on Tuesday.

While the department said it has fixed the errors, advocates warned that the lowball figures will impact the amount of federal funding New Orleans receives for sex crime victims for years to come.

Civil rights attorney Mary Howell and a researcher flagged a stark discrepancy between the number of aggravated and simple rapes NOPD furnished in weekly reports and those contained in year-end reports, and a stark and inconsistent drop in rapes reported from 2020 to 2022.

Their inquiry prompted NOPD to investigate reporting of crime data from its Special Victims Division, police officials said Tuesday at a media briefing.

The department found that it under-counted sex crimes over two years in a shift to a new national crime reporting program, the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which has replaced the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program.

The change allows for greater specificity and detail in national crime reporting. All U.S. city police departments were required to complete that transition by 2021, but a minority, including NOPD, hadn't done so by the end of 2022.

As a stopgap, the NOPD's Special Victims Measure furnished crime data using outlines defined by Louisiana law, instead of those defined by the revised FBI rules, NOPD deputy chief Nicholas Gernon said. But the FBI broadened its definition of rape to include attempts, indecent behavior, sexual battery or molestation cases.

The result, according to NOPD: In 2021, the department reported 501 of 696 rapes by the FBI's definition. In 2022, the department reported 449 rapes. It now reports 672 rapes for that year, an increase of nearly half. The new figures reveal a modest decline since 2019 in reported rapes in the city, rather than the severe drop seen with the undercount, NOPD figures show.??

NOPD notified the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, which furnishes crime data to the FBI, to amend its 2021 and 2022 sex crime numbers and will provide quarterly reports to the public in an attempt to improve transparency, Gernon said. He added that the miscount did not impact sex crime investigations or prosecutions.

But advocates say the under-count may already have prevented Louisiana from getting its due of federal funds that are calculated based on population, the share of state crime reported in a district, and the crime rate within the district, according to a September letter from the city's Office of Criminal Justice Coordination.

The formulas are set based on the U.S. Census, and it's unclear if advocates in the city will have to wait nearly a decade to set a new one based on the revised New Orleans sex crime data.

Howell and the researcher, a sexual assault survivor, issued a joint statement after the NOPD's announcement.??

"While the consequences of this incorrect data are not fully known at this time, NOPD's public acknowledgement and correction is an important step towards what will hopefully be an on-going collaborative effort with survivors, researchers, advocates, and the larger community to improve both public awareness and the City of New Orleans' response to sexual violence," the statement read.

NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick on Tuesday praised the department for its transparency and willingness to address its mistakes. Gernon called it an indicator of the department's compliance with reforms overseen by a federal judge.

But Stella Cziment, the city's independent police monitor, criticized NOPD for the undercount and its opacity in a written statement, calling both "deeply concerning."

Cziment chided the department for its claims of transparency, saying she wasn't made aware of the incorrect data until this week.