Winnipeg Police Caught Manipulating Accident Data. Again.
The Winnipeg, Canada, Police Service has been caught a second time underreporting the number of accidents at red light camera intersections in order to make the lucrative program appear effective. The Winnipeg City Auditor was first to note the police tactic in a 2006 audit report. This week, the Winnipeg Sun found the police are still using the same technique to protect a program which generated $14,086,804 CAD in revenue for 2008.
According to the 2008 Photo Enforcement Program Annual Report, accidents went from 161 in 2002 — before cameras were installed — to 101 in 2007, an impressive 37.3 percent reduction. The figures considered the first twelve locations where red light cameras were installed. The Sun obtained data from the monopoly provider of insurance cover, Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), and found the real accident figure for 2007 was 168, not 101. According to the more reliable MPI data, accidents increased significantly year after year since 2002, only dropping in 2007 as traffic volumes just began a sharp decline.
Officials frequently dismiss such increases by claiming only the number of insignificant “fender benders” changed. The 2006 audit report included data proving the greatest increase in accidents actually occurred in the most serious category of collisions.
Winnipeg is not the first police agency to be caught fudging photo enforcement figures. In 2006, the UK Statistics Commission, an independent government agency, issued a statement condemning what it called the “known undercounting of road accidents in police statistics.”
The board had been following research published in the British Medical Journal that showed a significant discrepancy between actual hospital records and injury statistics provided by police agencies that were being used to report a similar 30 percent reduction in serious injury accidents where speed cameras were used. The hospital data showed a slight increase in the number of injuries.
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