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For Years, Philly Police Dumped Crime Data at Disney World

The unusual policy for logging crime locations in the Philadelphia Police Department's electronic records began more than 10 years ago. It ended this summer after the NBC10 Investigators started asking about it. Experts say using Disney World went against industry standards.

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Shineka Crawford will never forget the day her 18-year-old son Shaquille Barbour was killed.

She was at a family gathering in North Philadelphia last summer, when she learned a gunman shot Shaquille more than a dozen times. Crawford found him bleeding in the street.

“I can’t get that picture out of my head,” Crawford told NBC10 Investigators in an interview. "The pain never goes away, and never gets better."

After analyzing crime data from Philadelphia police, the NBC10 Investigators uncovered that 5,000 crimes from the past six years were pinpointed to Disney World. NBC10 Investigators’ Danny Freeman has more on how this came to be.

But according to Philadelphia Police Department records, Barbour was not shot on the 1700 block of 68th Avenue in West Oak Lane in front of family. The data showed he was killed in Disney World.

For more than a decade, if Philadelphia police officers made a typo or were unable to record a precise location for a crime committed in the city, the department would mark the incident with GPS coordinates inside Disney World in Florida. Specifically, the area behind Cinderella’s Castle known as "Fantasyland" became the default location for inaccurate crime data.

“It’s hurtful. He got murdered on the street in Philadelphia,” Crawford said through tears when she learned of this practice.

In her son Shaquille's case, instead of logging his homicide as occurring in the 1700 block of 68th Avenue, officers recorded the crime's location as the 1700 block of North 68th Street. That location doesn’t exist, so in the department's records, the incident was assigned coordinates for Fantasyland.

The NBC10 Investigators learned that over the past six years, more than 5,000 crimes—including 16 arsons, 50 homicides, and 298 auto thefts—were plotted to Disney World.

No other location within city limits had more recorded Philadelphia crime.

“It conveys the wrong message that a police department doesn’t really care,” said Robert Kane, the director of Drexel University’s Criminology and Justice Studies.

He said that it is not uncommon for police departments to deal with mapping messy or imprecise data.

The Los Angeles Police Department used to plot crimes with bad addresses to its headquarters. The industry standard is to place these crimes at GPS coordinates 0,0 -- which is in the Atlantic Ocean.

Kane said it is uncommon to choose a default location like Disney World.

This is a screengrab of Disney World when using the Philadelphia Police Department's Crime Mapper application at phillypolice.com on July 14, 2022, prior to a change in policy by the department. It showed 799 Philadelphia crimes had been reported at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, during the prior six months, including six homicides, two rapes and 69 aggravated assaults.

“I don’t think you would want your crime, or a crime committed against somebody close to you, kind of minimized by the very agency that’s supposed to be investigating and trying to make it right,” he said.

The Philadelphia Police Department's director of research and analysis, Kevin Thomas, said he had not heard of the Disney World coordinates policy until NBC10 brought it to his attention.

But after he learned about the practice, he asked others in the department who said the choice to map certain crimes to Disney World was made more than ten years ago.

“In no way was this meant to be in any way humorous,” Thomas said.

The location was chosen intentionally so that bad data would not muddle Philadelphia crime stats, he said.

“It was just an innocuous location chosen within the U.S. that would obviously not have anything to do with Philadelphia whatsoever," Thomas said.

Thomas asserted this never affected the department’s ability to solve crimes.

He added that only 2% of crimes were mapped in Fantasyland.

Recently, after NBC10 raised the issue, the Philadelphia Police Department changed its policy and manually fixed some of the data.

“Thinking through this a little bit further, speaking to some of the leadership at PPD, we made the adjustment,” Thomas said.

Months after the initial story aired, the NBC10 Investigators confirmed Philadelphia Police corrected several homicide locations between 2019 and 2022, including Shaquille's murder. Crawford told NBC10 Thursday she was appreciative of the change but is still hoping for justice. Her son's murder remains unsolved.

The department says it will now plot inaccurate crimes in the Atlantic Ocean. Disney World did not respond to a request for comment.

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