Matthews Police corrects crime stats, showing higher rates of theft, shoplifting

Earlier this month, investigators disclosed the town of Matthews inflated its crime case clearance rates for the past four years. Now, the town has released more data specifically showing the department’s statistics previously underplayed how often certain crimes happened — namely shoplifting and other thefts.

The investigation was conducted by US ISS Agency, LLC from May to December under the direction of Town Manager Becky Hawke, according to a Matthews news release earlier this month. Previously Hawke said: “.. Those deemed responsible for these reporting issues have either been held appropriately accountable or are no longer with the department.”

In a news release Monday, the town released the corrected statistics from 2018-2022. These showed the Matthews Police Department has a clearance rate in some crime categories far lower than previously reported.

The investigation found the department listed cases “closed by other means” in a way that did not align with state and federal reporting standards and broke department policy, The Charlotte Observer previously reported. This caused the department to inappropriately list a clearance rate of 75% or more for its Criminal Investigations Division, town officials said.

That would have been significantly higher than other clearance rates for violent crimes by other police agencies in the Southeast, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Data. In other instances, the department’s true clearance rate for some property crime appears to be better than the average of other agencies.

Investigators are reviewing the cases that were listed as “closed by other means,” town officials said in a release. As of Monday, only two cases had been reopened for additional investigation: one robbery and one motor vehicle theft, both from 2022.

While the rate at which police encountered some types of crimes — including assault, burglary, destruction of property, and robbery — were misreported by small amounts, others were substantially under-counted. For example, shoplifting and thefts were reported more often than Matthews Police originally publicized in previous years.

In other cases, the number of crimes were over-stated. For example, in 2018 Matthews Police reported 234 general larceny cases. The correct amount was 117. Likewise the department misreported clearance rates from 2019-2021.

Other crime statistics were reported correctly in previous years, including the number of homicide, arson, kidnapping and motor vehicle thefts cases.

Hawke said in a statement Monday that Matthews was, and is, still a safe place to live.

“The corrected case closure rates continue to demonstrate excellent work performed by Matthews police officers and investigators on an ongoing basis,” Hawke said.