Archive for the ·

statistics

· Category...

Today Detroit: Tomorrow Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco . . .

no comments

Probation instead of prison = more murders (link broken).

Sort of gives a new meaning to the Department of Justice’s massive push to defund incarceration and subsidize Prisoner Re-Entry instead:

Detroit Police chief: Homicides spike 31%; overall crime down

Mark Hicks/ The Detroit News

Detroit— The Detroit Police Department’s crime figures released Monday for the third quarter show 23 more homicides compared to the same period last year, a 31 percent increase.

The latest crime figures show a nearly 19 percent hike in murders so far over 2010, with 301 homicides citywide through Sunday.

Overall crime is down about 7 percent from July 1 to Sept. 30, Police Chief Ralph Godbee said.

The department is having “a bear of a time getting our arms around” the widespread number of guns in the city, resulting in more violent conflicts, he told residents at the Breithaupt Career & Technical Center on the city’s west side.

Some of the homicides also involved suspects who were on probation for other previous crimes, said Inspector Dwane Blackmon of the homicide unit.

“It’s important to note those who are constantly causing havoc in the community… have been placed on probation,” he said.

Expect more of the same as well-funded activists fight to overturn two- and three-strikes laws and minimum mandatory sentencing, and California prepares mass early releases of prisoners.

Oddly, in Detroit, other types of crime are down.  Or they may simply be being reported or recorded less.  You can’t hide a body as easily as you can overlook other types of incidents.  See here for a related post.

In other Detroit crime news, public bus drivers are still protesting dangerous conditions on the job:

Bus service in Detroit resumed Monday for the first full weekday since more than 100 drivers shut down the system for hours Friday morning, citing concern for their safety. The lack of bus service Friday prevented many Detroiters from making it to work or school on time. . .

Mayor Dave Bing ended the shutdown Friday by promising to use Detroit Police to heighten security, which pleased drivers and riders alike. Drivers were protesting an alleged attack on a colleague Thursday at the Rosa Parks Transit Center in downtown Detroit.

“It’s sad that that had to happen for us to get some attention,” said 20-year DDOT driver Charles Kimbrough. “We need help out here. We need help badly.”

Kimbrough, 44, had Friday off, but he wouldn’t have driven his bus if he had a shift. He stands in solidarity with the other drivers, and the alleged assault Thursday was the tipping point for drivers who feel unsafe because of criminal activity on DDOT buses.

“I know people that have been stabbed, spit on,” he said. “It ain’t nothing new to me.”

Asked how often he feels safe driving, Kimbrough quickly said, “Never.” Riders have put their hands on him, and he’s not allowed to carry a weapon for protection. He keeps the job to support his family.

There’s an easy solution for all of this: impose consequences for crime, instead of literally imprisoning everyone else in the city.  It’s one or the other.

Real Recidivism: The Numbers Aren’t Good

3 comments

Whenever some academician tells the media that this program or that program has “reduced recidivism,” or that “this group of offenders aren’t likely to commit more crimes” there are three questions you should always ask:

  • how long were the offenders tracked after they got out of prison?
  • how were offenders selected for (or excluded from) study?
  • who paid the academician?

I have an especially hard time trusting studies that are designed to test one specific program or sentencing initiative.  Such studies are usually designed by people who have a vested interest in proving the program a success — either the program directors themselves or some professor or consulting firm hired to evaluate their outcomes.

It’s sort of like telling a bunch of ambitious eleventh graders to grade their own performance on the SAT’s . . . based on effort.

Unfortunately, there is no graveyard where skewed studies go to die: they live on in debates about recidivism, sentencing, and crime.  This is how myths like “sex offenders almost never re-offend” seep out into the conventional wisdom.

How do you cook the books on recidivism? You follow tiny pools of offenders.  You pick offenders who have already shown initiative by enrolling in a program or being admitted into one — self-selecting, ideal participants.  You use partial information: convictions instead of arrests; post-plea sentencing instead of pre-pleaded charges.  Mostly, you follow offenders for very short periods of time after they are released, like, down the street to the first stoplight.

When you don’t do these things, this is what the headline looks like:

Recidivism rate worse than statistics indicate, Memphis-area study finds

20 years of research discovers 81 percent of former inmates end up back behind bars

Yikes.

Jeff Smith had been free of drugs for four years. Two of those years were during a stay at the Shelby County Correction Center and two were while working at the Salvation Army after his release from jail.

It was at the Salvation Army that Smith, 54, says he felt “a sense of purpose for the first time in years.” He was doing what he says he loves best — working as a carpenter and furniture refinisher. And he counseled other former inmates to try to keep them from repeating their mistakes.

Smith wishes he had followed his own advice. “I was tempted by the devil, and I failed,” he says. Carpentry, counseling and church services at the Salvation Army weren’t enough to break the “revolving-door” cycle that means, like Smith, up to 94 percent of former inmates will be rearrested and up to 81 percent will wind up behind bars again.

94% re-arrest rate.  This is from a 20-year study that recorded every re-arrest and re-conviction, avoiding the “partial information” scheme.  The study itself was conducted by people who have a program of their own to promote: they claim that their moral reconation therapy (MRT) resulted in a 25% decrease in recidivism:

About 94 percent of inmates receiving only standard counseling had been rearrested and 82 percent of them wound up back behind bars.  Of those receiving MRT therapy, 81 percent had been rearrested and 61 percent again wound up behind bars. It was reduction of about 25 percent from the group that did not receive MRT therapy.

Well, OK.  It’s not that I think that there’s no such thing as rehabilitation.  Consequences and 12-steps and therapy do work.  But I’d need to know a lot more about their selection process to buy the 25% claim.

Besides, when anti-incarceration activists claim that we save X amount of money by not incarcerating someone, that’s just untrue.  Most offenders receive significant social service dollars — housing, medical, food stamps — when they are out of prison as well, not to mention the price of policing them and the costs that arise every time they commit an additional crime, which 94% of them apparently will do.  Offenders who return to abusing substances when they get out of prison are particularly costly as their health deteriorates and their habits drag down the families and neighborhoods around them.  Innocent bystanders and misinformed taxpayers pay the tab either way.

Without acknowledging these costs, statements like this are, frankly, meaningless:

[T]he cost of housing an inmate like Smith is more than $24,000 a year, so cutting total costs by 25 percent would mean a huge savings.

Yet public policy debates rise and fall on questionable claims like these. The media needs to do a much better job of skeptically approaching all research claims.  After all, if there is reliable research showing that everything policymakers have been believing is not only wrong, but staggeringly wrong, the debate needs to be re-calibrated:

Tennessee Department of Correction studies show recidivism rates of about 51 percent over a three-year period, and national studies show recidivism averages of roughly 65 percent over three years. But [Dr. Greg] Little and [Dr. Kenneth] Robinson say the numbers keep going up over time, and the numbers are higher because most studies don’t count re-incarcerations that took place in other states or in courts other than the original case. For instance, an inmate released on state probation or parole is seldom counted as a recidivist if later jailed for a federal crime.

There is a very large difference between 51% recidivism and 94% recidivism.  You don’t need to throw out the rehabilitation baby with the research bathwater just because the research bathwater is hopelessly dirty, but you should wash the baby in clean water.


Domestic Violence And Police Time

1 comment

From the always-informative CourtWatchFlorida, a heads-up on the Department of Justice’s new report on domestic violence.

As I was reading through the report, a few facts jumped out:

Domestic violence-related police calls have been found to constitute the single largest category of calls received by police, accounting for 15 to more than 50 percent of all calls.

And:

[W]hether police arrested the suspect or not, their involvement had a strong deterrent effect.

I don’t know where Atlanta falls in the percentage of police calls made due to domestic violence (and that includes calls made by anybody, including third-parties), but it represents a substantial proportion of police resources.

And, even if arrests aren’t made, it is apparently time well-spent, since simply getting the police involved is a deterrent to further violence.  It may not feel that way to the cop who has to come out and deal with a frustrating, unresolved situation, but the research findings are unusually unambiguous on this important point: calling the police is an effective deterrent to escalating violence.

That’s worth considering, too, when you’re trying to decide what to do.

What a Difference Seven Months Makes?

1 comment

Remember this?

Well, according to the data that we have, there are some neighborhoods where the data don’t go along with what has actually transpired in their community.  We’ve had reductions [in crime] in a lot of those neighborhoods.  And then, some of the neighborhoods that we’ve had an increase in burglary and property crimes, those neighborhoods haven’t had a large outcry. . . I think they just respond to what they hear.  And a lot of times, perception to them is reality.

That was Chief Pennington in late January, saying that residents were over-reacting to crime, that it was just in their heads.

Here is Pennington August 7:

“In 2009, crime is down 10 percent . . . Since I joined the force [in 2002] crime is down 25 percent.”

Ben King, a graduate student at Georgia State who has an excellent blog called Terminal Station, writes:

We’ve all noticed that the police department’s contention that crime is down doesn’t seem to match what we see for ourselves.  I decided to do a little data project to figure out if the official police stats can help shed any light on what is going on.

My first post looks at residential burglaries, but I’ll also be looking at a lot of other types of crime and doing a some different types of analysis than just this first post.

What King found was a 65.1% increase in residential burglaries from 2004 – 2008.  I urge you to read the entire report at Terminal Station, which explains his methodology and includes easy to understand break-outs by Neighborhood Planning Units.  Here is his “short version”:

  • Residential burglaries are up significantly across the city
  • Southwest Atlanta has seen the highest increases in burglaries
  • East Atlanta and Grant Park had high levels of burglaries, and they’ve only gotten worse
  • Mild improvements in 2009 aren’t enough, given the increases of the last three years

Residential burglaries are up across the city

One thing that is lost in the overall numbers that get reported is how specific categories have performed. Residential burglaries are up significantly, both city-wide and even more in certain NPUs. From 2004-2008, the number of home burglaries increased 65%.


It is no surprise, then, that people feel less safe. Their homes are being violated at an alarming rate. This also places the statistics from 2009 into better context than I reported earlier. Through the first six months of 2009, residential burglaries are actually down slightly:


The fact that burglaries are down by 2% so far doesn’t negate three years of double-digit increases from 2006-2008. When it comes to residential burglaries, the city gets a big, fat, FAIL.

To summarize:

Chief Pennington says crime is down.

Ben King says burglaries are up 65% in just the past four years.

Pennington is particularly insistent that crime has not increased in certain neighborhoods with active neighborhood associations and e-mail notification lists, such as East Atlanta and Grant Park.

Ben King says this is certainly not true of burglaries:

NPU W, which includes Grant Park and East Atlanta, saw moderate increase in 2005 and 2007 before also exploding in 2008.  2008 was a bad year for the city as a whole, but particularly bad for NPU W – it brought them in to position as the #1 NPU in the city for residential burglaries for the year.

King and his colleagues are going to crunch the numbers on muggings and car break-ins next.  This is exciting work, and it shows the power of internet-accessible data.  It’s too bad, however, that it takes the volunteer labor of private citizens to do the type of work that ought to be done with the money we pay in taxes.

~~~

8,133 residential burglaries in 2008 is a lot of invaded homes.  Now if only we had on-line access to court dispositions, we would be able to see what percentage of those cases resulted in anyone being convicted of a crime and how many of those convictions resulted in incarceration, however brief.

Then you would know what your government is really doing, or not doing, to stop that guy crawling in your bedroom window.  I think those facts would shock people.

My sense of the way it washes out in the courts is this: juveniles need not worry too much about burglary charges.  They are generally given a pass the first time they get caught, unless violence is involved.  Even their second or third arrests rarely get them time in a juvenile facility (then, when they age out of the juvenile system, those records are sealed).

Once a burglar has “aged out” at 18, he gets another free bite of the apple with his first (the famously abused “first-time offender” category), and sometimes second and third burglary charge, if nobody is paying attention.  After that, his defense attorney counsels him to plead down to drug charges and request community treatment in lieu of incarceration.

It’s sort of like an apprenticeship, you see.  We should charge them tuition.

Strategies to Disappear Crimes: Rape in New Orleans

4 comments

Hat tip to Lou: an article that examines the New Orleans Police Department’s strategy for cutting the official number of rapes they report to the FBI: they do not investigate 60% of reported rapes:

More than half the time New Orleans police receive reports of rape or other sexual assaults against women, officers classify the matter as a noncriminal “complaint.”

Police, who have been touting a decline in rapes, say the share of noncriminal complaints reflects the difficulty officers face in coaxing rape victims to push forward with their complaints.

But former Orleans Parish sex crime prosecutor Cate Bartholomew says the frequent use of the alternative category — referred to as a “Signal 21″ in NOPD parlance — is a problem, arguing that some of the cases she saw should have been categorized as sex crimes. . .

In 2008, police say, there were 146 cases marked up by the sex crimes unit as a Signal 21, compared with 97 rapes and sexual batteries ultimately listed as criminal offenses by the Police Department. That means police classified 60 percent of rape calls as a Signal 21.

The usual debate revolves around arguments over whether women lie about rape.  And there are people (male and female) who lie about being victims.  But if you read this article carefully, it becomes clear that something else is going on in New Orleans.  Even the officers reclassifying or “unfounding” rape cases say that getting victims to cooperate, to trust the system, is a big problem.  They know that some people who won’t cooperate with them are victims of real rapes who don’t want to take their chances with an official investigation.  What is the role of the police, then?  If they create a dozen scenarios in which the outcome is “Signal 21,” or refusal to investigate, victims will eventually stop calling.  That is good for the Chamber of Commerce, as some say, good for the Police Chief, and bad for everyone else.

In New Orleans, the number of rapes and attempted rapes reported to the FBI dropped from 114 to 72 between 2007 and 2008, but the number of victims seeking rape examinations at Interim L.S.U. Hospital rose from 149 in 2007 to 168 in 2008.

When victims must find a way to get past a checklist of questions that might end in a reported sex crime being labeled “Signal 21,” how likely are they going to be to come forward?

And if even one rape victim gets dismissed this way, it is a horrible injustice.  Unfortunately, it’s not the type of injustice that gets treated as such by activist lawyers and eager law students searching for a cause.  Victims, unlike offenders, are on their own.  How bad does it get?  Victim advocates do gut checks with their clients all the time: “Are you sure you can handle this?” “It’s OK to walk away from the investigation” — not because they don’t want to see justice done, but because they have seen what gets done to victims, and they know the real odds of an offender getting any prison time at all.

Mix in New Orleans’ “No Snitching” culture, a sleazy political system that extends to the (barely functioning) courts, a routinely corrupt police administration, and a community besotted with fantasies of wrongly accused men, and there seems to be little reason for anyone to come forward after they have been raped.

The Chief of Police in New Orleans could help clear up the mystery of the “Signal 21′s,” but he refuses to release the records:

To examine in more detail how the NOPD handled cases given something other than a criminal designation, The Times-Picayune asked to review the reports of the Signal 21 and “unfounded” sexual assaults for the past three years — as well as documents, called “morfs,” prepared when the sex crimes unit receives a call but no formal investigation is undertaken.

The information hasn’t been delivered, as city officials maintain that assembling such documents would be time-consuming and costly. A letter sent to The Times-Picayune last week from City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields, for example, said the Police Department believes an officer would need 30 minutes to review and redact the “name, address and identity,” as mandated by state law, in just one crime report at a cost of at least $20 an hour.

Gee, that would be all of $1460 to get all the 2008 “Signal 21″ reports.  That’s got to be less than Mayor Nagin spends on lunch.  Who are they kidding?

And so, accountability remains elusive.  Meanwhile, others are also saying the city’s rape statistics are too low to be believable:

Tulane University criminologist Peter Scharf said the number of rapes doesn’t make sense when considered alongside New Orleans’ high rate of homicides. In comparison, Jackson, Miss., at a population of about 170,000 people, reported to the FBI last year 63 murders and 136 rapes. New Orleans, where the 2008 population estimates have topped 311,000, last year reported 179 murders and 65 rapes to the FBI. Police later changed the number of rapes that fit FBI guidelines to 72 in response to a newspaper request for statistics. [emphasis added]

A mere newspaper request resulted in the “officially reported” number of rapes rising by 10%.  So what happens when nobody’s looking?

I would like to see what is in those Signal 21 reports: are the dismissed victims young?  Do they know their alleged attackers?  Are they related to them?  Are they afraid of repercussions?  Is alcohol involved?  Homelessness, mental illness, prostitution?  Who does the reporting, if the victim isn’t cooperating?  What types of vulnerabilities keep them from trusting the police?  What types of characteristics keep the police from believing them?

A police chief who gave a damn would want to get to the bottom of this.

How many of the reports that get lodged in police’s minds, and the public mind, as false, are real rapes, disbelieved?  Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant and longtime sex crime investigator, has written a compelling study on the actual prevalence of false rape reports, titled “So How Many Rape Reports Are False?”  It is a quick and eye-opening read.  You can find the pdf here: www.ncdsv.org/images/HowManyRapeReportsareFalse.pdf