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It's Worse Than You Thought, Much Worse

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Complacency about crime is the petri dish of the movement to reduce accountability (read: sentences) for criminals. Complacency is fed by repetition of the (truthful, as far as it goes) assertion that crime has fallen dramatically in the last quarter century.  Typically absent from this assertion, however are two key facts:  First, violent crime, and murder in particular, has surged over the last three years over what it was at the end of 2014; and second, that three of the most significant causes of reduced crime (more police, more proactive policing, and increased use of incarceration) are exactly the programs the complacency peddlers hope to reverse.

Nostalgia for the bad old days of more crime seems odd to me, but there you have it.

One thing advocates of more humbled policing and softer sentencing will sometimes admit, however, constitutes a startling rebuttal to their pitch for complacency.  It is this:  The crime figures upon which complacency is based are false.  This is so because, to quote verbatim the words of the Pew Research Center (a left-leaning think tank), "Most crimes are not reported to police, and most reported crimes are not solved."

You read that right.  The figures we routinely see about crime (e.g., from the UCR, which I also have frequently cited) don't tell even half the story of how prevalent crime is.  And I might add that, even among the minority of crimes that are both reported  and solved, only a fraction get prosecuted. Worse still, of that number, the actual crime is seldom charged.  Instead, what gets taken to court is a dumbed-down version the prosecutor has agreed to in order to obtain a plea bargain defense counsel will accept.

Remember this, then, the next time you see a headline like, "Statistics say crime is way down."  The headline may well be true for what is says.  It's what it doesn't say that will cost you your wallet (or a great deal more).
The Pew Report is here.  The paragraph to which I'm referring (which is perhaps not coincidentally at the bottom of the report) reads as follows:

Most crimes are not reported to police, and most reported crimes are not solved. In its annual survey, BJS asks victims of crime whether they reported that crime to police. In 2016, only 42% of the violent crime tracked by BJS was reported to police. And in the much more common category of property crime, only about a third (36%) was reported. There are a variety of reasons crime might not be reported, including a feeling that police "would not or could not do anything to help" or that the crime is "a personal issue or too trivial to report," according to BJS.

Most of the crimes that are reported to police, meanwhile, are not solved, at least using an FBI measure known as the "clearance rate." That's the share of cases each year that are closed, or "cleared," through the arrest, charging and referral of a suspect for prosecution. In 2016, police nationwide cleared 46% of violent crimes that were reported to them. For property crimes, the national clearance rate was 18%.

2 Comments

I don't understand what the first and second parts of this post have to do with one another.

1. Crime is down a lot over the last 20-30 years.
2. Most crimes are not reported.

But 2 in no way undermines 1 unless there is some reason to think that fewer crimes are being reported now than in the past. That is, there is reason to think that the absolute number of reported crimes may be incorrect but there is no reason to think that the percentage decrease in crime is incorrect.

The notorious left wing publication the Economist is skeptical of the connection between increased incarceration and crime reduction: https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/11/problem-sentences-0

Finally, if you are worried about your wallet keep in mind that incarceration costs over $75K per year in California. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-prison-costs-20170604-htmlstory.html

-- Here's the relationship: Although crime is down, this is no reason for the complacency the pro-criminal element is trying to stoke. In fact, crime is massively higher than the statistics state, a fact you conspicuously do not dispute.

-- It's another weary and dishonest aspect of the "let-them-out-now" lobby's theorizing that the gigantic decrease in crime had zip to do with the gigantic increase in the incapacitation of the people committing it. It's also preposterous on its face, but let's not get into that.

-- The way to reduce the costs of incarceration is to adopt resolute incentives for prisoners to do productive work, which they will have to do on the outside anyway.

-- Isn't it the case that incarceration costs in California have increased enormously since Gov. Brown put into place his programs to lower the prison population?

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