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October 2010

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Halloween Safety Hotline

IACP and the National Confectioners Association joined forces and, in 1983, established the Halloween Candy Hotline to assist law enforcement officials and poison control nationwide in the event of suspected candy tampering. The Halloween Candy Hotline offers technical assistance and expertise in determining whether an incident is a real problem or a result of manufacture and/or shipment.

The hotline was started because of numerous complaints of razor blades, glass, and other harmful items placed in candy during Halloween. After an intensive and continuous educational effort, reports of tampering incidents have declined. Maintenance of this success is important, and the hotline has established a web presence where law enforcement officials and poison control centers can access this information easily. The telephone hotline will still exist during Halloween.

The hotline operators will put police officers in touch with experts for the confectionery item in question. The manufacturer’s expert will help determine whether a concern is one to be further investigated or a common and harmless occurrence, which can happen during shipping or the manufacturing process. For example, a “white powder” could be starch from a candy filling, and “glass” might be crystallized sugar.

The hotline web pages for law enforcement officials and poison control are available duringthe Halloween season. Please keep in mind that the web pages and the hotline are not intended for the general public. To contact a hotline operator during the Halloween season, call 1-800-433-1200.

Visit The Halloween Hotline website at for frequently asked questions, safety recommendations, and other useful information to print out and to help create awareness.

U.S. 2009 Traffic Deaths Lowest in Six Decades

The U.S. Department Transportation Department reports that traffic deaths fell 9.7 percent in 2009 to 33,808, the lowest number since 1950. In 2008, an estimated 37,423 people died on the U.S. highways.

The rate of deaths per 100 million miles traveled dropped to 1.13 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 2009, compared with 1.26 deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 2008. This reduction in fatalities came even as the estimated number of miles traveled by motorists in 2009 increased 0.2 percent over 2008 levels.

Highlights of the latest Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and related NHTSA data include the following:

  • 33,808 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2009, a 9.7 percent decline from 37,423 deaths reported in 2008, and the lowest number of deaths since 1950 (which had 33,186).

  • An estimated 2.217 million people were injured in 2009, a 5.5 percent decline from 2.346 million in 2008.

  • 30,797 fatal crashes occurred in 2009, down 9.9 percent from 34,172 in 2008. All crashes (fatal, injury, and property damage only) were down by 5.3 percent in 2009 from a year ago.

For more information, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at

2009 Crime in the United States

During 2009, violent crime declined for the third year in a row, with an estimated 5.3 percent drop from 2008 figures. Property crime continued to fall as well, for a seventh straight year, with an estimated decrease of 4.6 percent, according to the Crime in the United States, 2009 report released by the FBI.

These latest statistics come 80 years to the month after the FBI took over the responsibility of compiling and publishing the U.S. crime data from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The categories back in 1930 were almost identical to the categories today—murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny-theft, burglary, and auto theft. Arson was added later.

Highlights from the 2009 report follow:

  • Each of the violent crime categories decreased from 2008—murder (7.3 percent), robbery (8.0 percent), aggravated assault (4.2 percent), and forcible rape (2.6 percent).

  • Each of the property crime categories also dropped from 2008—motor vehicle theft (17.1 percent), larceny-theft (4.0 percent), and burglary (1.3 percent).

  • Among the 1,318,398 violent crimes were 15,241 murders; 88,097 forcible rapes; 408,217 robberies; and 806,843 aggravated assaults.

  • Among the 9,320,971 property crimes were an estimated 2,199,125 burglaries; 6,327,230 larceny-thefts; 794,616 thefts of motor vehicles; and 58,871 arsons.

  • In 2009, U.S. agencies made about 13.7 million arrests, excluding traffic violations. Of those arrests, an estimated 581,765 were for violent crimes.

  • Nearly 75 percent of all arrested persons in the United States during 2009 were male. Slightly more than 77 percent of all murder victims were also male.

  • Firearms were used in 67.1 percent of U.S. murders, along with 42.6 percent of robberies and 20.9 percent of aggravated assaults. Weapons data are not collected for forcible rapes.

  • Collectively, victims of property crimes, excluding arson, lost an estimated $15.2 billion during 2009.

A total of 17,985 city, county, university and college, state, tribal, and federal agencies participated in the Uniform Crime Reporting program in 2009.These agencies serve 96.3 percent of the U.S. population.

The complete report is available from the FBI. Visit

Alcohol-Involved Violent Incident Data Released

Alcohol and Crime: Data from 2002 to 2008 by Michael R. Rand, William J. Sabol, Michael Sinclair, Howard N. Snyder and published by Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, includes analyses from four data sources that examine the involvement of alcohol and violent crime from different perspectives and different sets of criminal behaviors.

The data are available through the Internet for easy use by departments. The data include analyses from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS); the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS); the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (SISFCF); and the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails (SILJ). Each data source examines the involvement of alcohol and violent crime from different perspectives and different sets of criminal behaviors. In NIBRS, law enforcement officers are asked to record whether alcohol use by victims, offenders, or both was involved in the incident. In NCVS, victims are asked to report whether they believe the offenders had consumed alcohol prior to or during the crime. Finally, in the inmate surveys, prison and jail inmates are asked if they were using alcohol at the time of the crime for which they were incarcerated.

The variations in the four data collections are likely to result in different statistics related to alcohol use in violent crimes. While in some ways these differences may lead to confusion about how to interpret the findings of alcohol involvement in crime, they can paint a more complete picture than any single data collection.

The NCVS captures the broadest range of crime and includes nonfatal crime reported and not reported to law enforcement. Because the NCVS measures the number of victimizations, it does not restrict identifying an incident as alcohol-involved based on the quantity of alcohol consumed by the offender or the degree of impairment resulting from the alcohol consumption. NIBRS captures fatal and nonfatal crimes reported to law enforcement, which are likely more serious than those captured by NCVS. Victimizations captured by NCVS and offenses known to police reflected in NIBRS may underestimate domestic violence; however, it is not clear which data source provides better information on the characteristics of these crimes.

In NIBRS, officers are asked to indicate whether the crime involved alcohol, drugs, or computers. Because officers use primarily observation and professional judgment to form their assessment and because the assessment is unlikely to be based on a chemical or behavioral test for alcohol, the incident is likely to be coded as alcohol-involved only when a victim or an offender shows obvious signs of alcohol impairment. As a result, some alcoholinvolved incidents may not be coded as such (for example, incidents in which the amount of alcohol consumed was relatively small and none of the people involved showed outward signs of alcohol use). In some jurisdictions, officers may also indicate “not applicable” if alcohol, drugs, or computers were not involved in the crime. For the alcohol and crime analysis presented here, BJS treated the absence of an indication that alcohol was involved, or a nonapplicable response as a nonalcohol-related incident.

In the inmate surveys (SISFCF and SILJ), inmates are asked whether they had been using alcohol prior to or during the commission of the crime leading to their incarceration. The differences in the distribution of violent crimes leading to incarceration, and those reported to the NCVS or NIBRS, may arise from the fact that the prison and jail inmates have been convicted, whereas NIBRS and NCVS include all crimes—those that result in a conviction and those that do not. Also, inmates are more likely than victims or law enforcement to know whether they had been using alcohol prior to or during the crime. The SISFCF and the SILJ also provide information on alcohol involvement for nonviolent crimes.

For detailed information on alcohol-related incidents, data tables, and figures, visit the BJS website at ■



From The Police Chief, vol. 77, no. 10, October 2010. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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