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Murder Continues to Rise in 2017

The information and predictions site 538 tells us that murder is on the increase for the third straight year.  The spike is smaller this year than in the last two  --  but this news is only so good, given that the 2015 and 2016 murder rate increases were substantial, the largest since at least the elder Bush was President.  Thus, 538 says that, while the figures so far this year are insufficient to project long-term trends:

...there tend to be more murders in the second half of the year, when it's warmer, especially in northern cities. Between 52 and 54 percent of big-city murders occurred in the second half of the year in every year between 2010 and 2015, according to the FBI's data.  So murder rates in those cities will likely ultimately be higher than the midyear statistics suggest.

Second, recent history suggests that not only does the absolute number of murders increase in the second half of the year, but the rate of increase also accelerates.

Ooooooops.  Hey, but let's keep lowering sentences anyway!
The starkest statement of the bad news is buried farther down the page (emphasis added):

Big cities tend to exaggerate national murder trends, both up and down -- so a large rise in big-city murder usually corresponds with a slightly smaller national increase. If murder rose roughly 8 percent nationally in 2016 (as my January estimate suggests) and is set to rise a few percentage points in 2017, then the nation's murder rate in 2017 will be roughly the same as it was in 2008. That's still more than 40 percent lower than the country's murder rate in the early 1990s (but roughly 27 percent higher than it was in 2014).

Some notes:

--  By any sensible standard, a 27% increase in the murder rate in three years is a national scandal.  Denial and complacency must end.

--  I'm not sure when, if ever, murder has shown that much of an increase over that short a period.  It's probably decades; it could be many decades.  Perhaps a reader with better skill at numbers will know.

--  If murder is up that much, other violent crime is very likely to have increased by a similar amount.

--  The increase correlates precisely with repeated, boastful reminders (read any two weeks' worth of Sentencing Law and Policy) of the success, within the states, of the sentencing reform movement in reducing the number of incarcerated criminals.  And yes, thanks, I'm aware that correlation is not causation.  But if you think there is no relation whatever between violent crime and the number of criminals we put back on the street, or who never get taken off the street because of more cautious policing, there's this bridge in Brooklyn...

--  Still, there was some "good" news.  The pace of the murder increase has slackened in 2017 from what it was in the two years before.

Which raises this question:  What's the single most prominent thing that has happened in criminal justice policy this year that was not there in the last two? Reasonable minds will differ on that question, but I would say it's this:  The criminals-are-victims attitude of Attorney General Lynch has been replaced by the criminals-are-accountable attitude of Attorney General Sessions.


You know you're in trouble when the "good news" is that things are getting worse at a slower rate.

America is both over-incarcerated and under-incarcerated. Surprise surprise. It's a country of 300 million people--there are going to be examples of injustice. What the criminal-coddling try to do is point to (often deceptive) examples of harsh justice in order to advance the agenda of releasing murderers, rapists, burglars and robbers.

What is so angering is that there are so many murders of good people where the perp has a record of violence and lenient treatment.


Perfection is unattainable. Some sentences will be too long; others too short. Given this inescapable fact no matter what system we have, we are left with only two questions: What is the nature of the error we trying to cope with, and who, on the equities, should bear its costs?

The nature of the error is either a year or two or three too much in prison -- clearly an injustice -- vs. another Wendell Callahan (or worse). To me, this choice is unhappy, but easy.

Should the person to bear the error be the party who could have chosen differently (for example, to get a normal job like the rest of us or save for the things he wants), or the person who never had a choice, or a chance, and instead got slugged in the mouth so the crackhead could get money for his next fix (or first class airfare to Vegas to see the fights)?

Again, the choice is easy.

About that "bridge in Brooklyn",
and "By any sensible standard"...

Pres. Clinton reminded us that decidedly destructive, "crazy" policies
were being purued at least as recently as last year:

"So you've got this crazy [Obamacare] system where all of a sudden 25 million
more people have [free] health care and then the people who are out there
busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums
doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in
the world...and everybody knows it."-- 10/5/16 (CNN)


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