Philadelphia Police Department assigned crime data for unknown locations to Disney World

PHILADELPHIA — An unusual policy at the Philadelphia Police Department led to hundreds of crimes, some of them violent, that were committed in the city, to instead be listed as occurring at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

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For more than 10 years, if a typo was in a report or if an officer was unable to record a precise location for a crime in the city, it was department policy to assign the incident GPS coordinates inside Disney World, WCAU reported. Specifically, the coordinates point to the area behind Cinderella’s Castle known as “Fantasyland.”

The crime data, which is publicly available, listed 589 shootings with victims since 2015 as happening at Disney World, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Since WCAU its their initial report, the data no longer appears on the city’s website.

WCAU found that over the last six years, more than 5,000 crimes were recorded as happening at Disney World, including 16 arsons, 15 homicides and 298 auto thefts.

The director of research and analysis for the Philadelphia Police department, Kevin Thomas, told WCAU that he was unaware of the policy until the station brought it to his attention.

“In no way was this meant to be in any way humorous,” Thomas said. “It was just an innocuous location chosen within the U.S. that would obviously not have anything to do with Philadelphia whatsoever.”

The decision was made many years ago to make that change, Thomas said, so that the data would not muddle city crime statistics.

Other police departments use other coordinates for cases with no usable address. The Los Angeles Police Department used to use its own headquarters, and WCAU found that the industry standard is to use 0,0 — a point in the Atlantic Ocean.

Joseph Sullivan, a former deputy commissioner with the Philadelphia Police Department, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “This might just be poor optics, but we have to be sure and either way it has to stop.”

Thomas told The Philadelphia Inquirer that overall, the use of Walt Disney World’s coordinates had no impact on staffing or deployment decisions, because less than 2% of crimes and other incidents were recorded using those coordinates.

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