Alexander Cockburn Deflates Fears of Another "Crime Wave"

Ominously timed for Campaign 2008 we've got a hike in certain stats for violent crime. So we can look forward to Steve Squarejaw-type commitments to being tough on crime, particularly from Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and -- it's surely safe to assume -- Hillary Clinton. The Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based law enforcement think tank whose board consists of seven police chiefs, including William Bratton of the LAPD and John Timoney of Miami, has just put out a report stridently titled "Violent Crime in America: 24 Months of Alarming Trends". This follows the alarums of the Forum's October 2006 bulletin, which featured Bratton predicting "a gathering storm" of violent crimes.

Of the fifty-six police departments voluntarily sending 2006 figures to the Forum-New York City was not among them-forty reported increases in homicide and robbery. The Forum says that between 2004 and 2006 homicide increased 10.2 percent, robbery 12.3 percent, aggravated assault 3.1 percent, aggravated assault with a firearm up 10 percent. . . .

The Forum's fearful trumpetings would diminish sharply if its statistics addressed crime rates rather than merely numbers of crimes. The population of the United States is rising by about 1 percent per year. As the columnist John Lott pointed out, if the police chiefs had measured the violent crime rate, "it would have been hard to argue that violent crime is increasing because while the rate did go up slightly in 2005, it had fallen every single previous year since 1991. How can they claim that violent crime is out of control when it had fallen for thirteen straight years before rising by 1.3 percent for just one year?"

There are wide divergences in the performance of the cities reporting to the forum. Murderers in Charleston worked away diligently and managed to hike their total from 11 victims in 2005 to 23 in 2006, a headline-making rise of 109 percent. By contrast the murderers of Atlanta could only manage 107 in 2006, up from a disappointing 89 in 2005, but down from 112 in 2004. In Chicago aggravated assaults fell two straight years, from 18,820 in 2004 to 17,438 in 2006, a drop of 7.3 percent. . . .

Cockburn is right on point here. As hard as it is for me to still be surprised by the New York Times, I was still amazed that they have tried creating this hysteria over rising crime. The NY Times is what seems to have given this report the main attention that it received. The quote that Cockburn uses from me is for a report that the Police Executive Research Forum had issued this past year, but it is still exactly on point for this re-release of this slightly updated report. The most recent report that was issued earlier this year appears to be even worse in that it is not even clear whether there was a bias in what city crime rates were reported. For those interested in seeing the PERF report please go here.

Just to give you an idea of how bizarre this report is, when you read this note that this is the number of crimes, not the crime rate. It is akin to comparing the number of crimes in a city 20 years ago with today even though the population of the city might have doubled over that time. See page 5:
Alexandria (VA) Homicides doubled from 2004 to 2005
Arlington (TX) 5-year high for aggravated assaults
Boston (MA) 10-year high for homicides
Cincinnati (OH) 20-year high for homicides
Fairfax Co. (VA) 16-year high for homicides
Kansas City (MO) 6-year high for homicides
Nashville (TN) 7-year high for homicides
Orlando (FL) All-time high for homicides
Prince George’s Co. (MD) All-time high for homicides
Richmond (CA) 10-year high for homicides
Springfield (MA) Nearing a 10-year high for homicides
Toronto (Canada) 10-year high for homicides
Trenton (NJ) All-time high for homicides
Virginia Beach (VA) 10-year high for robbery

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Article links to a video about Micheal Moore. Can you check the link pleae?

3/18/2007 4:51 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Sorry, it is fixed.

3/18/2007 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

It may be useful to remember that big city police chiefs tend to be, above all, intensely political animals. While most do tend to have long law enforcement experience, they would never be appointed without an absolutely dedicated devotion to the politics of the mayor and/or city council, most of which tend to be very liberal democrats. In considering anything they have to say about crime, it's worthwhile to keep this in mind.

3/18/2007 9:19 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home