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The press release is here. The full report is here. Percentage changes are in Table 9 on page 9.
What gives? How can these two measures of "crime rates" produce such dramatically different results? The devil is in the details.
In prior posts (here and here), we examined preliminary data for indications of whether California's "realignment" program, effective October 2011, may have resulted in an increase in crime. For the final data, as with the preliminary, all we can say is that the data are consistent with that hypothesis but definitive proof is not possible at this time.
With the FBI final data, we can compare statewide totals across states. California's property crime is up 6.8%, compared with a national decline of -0.9%. Property crime is the type most likely to be affected by realignment, as the program is not supposed to have any effect on the sentencing of violent criminals. (It has more than advertised, but that is another topic.)
Other states that have significant rises in property crime are mostly small-population states: South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Alaska, West Virginia, Vermont, and North Dakota, in that order. (California would come after Nevada in the ordered list.) What's with the increases in the small states? It could be that statistics are simply more volatile there. Montana, West Virginia, and Alaska bounced back up from significant drops the year before, so this could just be "reversion to the mean." Something else may be at work in the Dakotas. South Dakota's property crime rate is up to a level not seen for 10 years. Could be the oil boom.
Among medium and large states, California stands out. Oregon's property crime increase is a shade more than half of California's. Colorado's is lower. Washington's is only a third. And it's sharply downhill from there. Texas is down -3.2%. Florida and Ohio notched -7.0% and -7.1% drops, respectively.
Looking around for hard data on the latter point, I found a question in the Bureau of Justice Statistics' Survey of Inmates in State Correctional Facilities that seemed to fill the bill. They just asked the inmates who were in on drug charges which drug it was. (Question S5Q13a, variable V0884.) Great. We're golden. Here are the results from a sample of 3,686 questionnaires in the most recent survey available (2004):
Don't know: 2
After years of decline, murder and rape are up in 2012 over 2011, but the CJSC's statewide figures are not up as much as the FBI's numbers from the cities over 100,000 population. Homicides are +4.6% statewide compared to +10.5% in the cities. The nationwide figure is +1.5% Rape is +2.1% statewide compared to +6.4% in the cities and -0.3% nationwide. Robbery is +3.9% statewide, about the same as the +3.5% city figure, compared to 0.5% nationally. Aggravated assault is +3.9% statewide, +2.0% in the cities, and +1.7% nationwide.
So violent crime is up in California, more so than in the nation as a whole, but not as much as in the city data reported previously.
For property crimes, the picture is not much different from that reported previously from the FBI preliminary city data. (Click on the graph for a better view.) California property crimes are up while the national figures are essentially flat.
Auto theft is the crime category most likely to be affected by realignment. It is always a felony, unlike theft, but always categorized as "nonserious" for realignment, unlike burglary.
Auto theft is up a staggering 14.6% statewide, essentially the same as the 15% figure previously reported from the FBI preliminary city data. Before realignment, auto theft was in decline.
Does this prove realignment is the cause? No, proof either way is not possible at this point. But it's probable cause, at the very least. Common sense tells us that releasing large numbers of criminals is likely to cause increased crime. The pattern of increases in the various crimes fits the pattern we would expect if realignment were the cause of the increase. No alternative explanation for an increase in 2012 is apparent.
Naturally, I was curious to see how California fared relative to the nation as a whole in the first full year of realignment. Not good. The FBI strangely does not give state totals in this report, but it gives numbers for cities over 100,000 population, which covers about half of the population of the state. So I totaled these city numbers for 2012 and compared them with 2011. Crime rates are generally higher in urban areas, of course, but we are dealing with year-to-year differences here, so that factor cancels out.
Unlike the mixed bag in the national numbers, California city crime is up in every category. Not only that, but California city crime increased more than the national figure in every category. Violent crime is up 2.9% compared to 1.2% nationally, but when we focus on the most violent crimes, we see murder up 10.5% v. 1.5% nationally and rape up 6.4% v. a 0.3% drop nationally.
For property crime the difference is even greater, just what you would expect in a state that has decided to coddle its property offenders. Overall, California cities had a 9.7% increase v. a 0.8% drop nationally.
Auto theft is particularly telling, as it is not a "serious" offense (although it is very serious to the victims), and thus the entire category comes under the realignment law. California cities had a staggering 15% increase in auto theft, while the nation as a whole had only a 1.3% increase. I noted the same effect in the first-half data on this blog here.
The evidence continues to mount, confirming what persons of sense knew from the beginning. Realignment is a disaster.
Four of five jailed burglars commit crime again within three years of being released from prison.The full report is here.
Burglars top the table of recidivist offenders in a study compiled by the Irish Prison Service and the Central Statistics Office.
The actual rate of new offenses is higher than the study's definition of recidivism, which is:
For this report, a re-offender is defined as an individual who committed a recorded offence within three years of prison release date; and who is subsequently convicted in court proceedings. For example, if a person is released on December 31st 2007, and committed an offence on the December 30th 2010, they would be considered as having re-offended within three years if the court proceedings lead to a conviction....In other words, a new crime is not counted if the perpetrator is not caught or not convicted or has an appeal pending at the time of data collection.
Court proceedings leading to a conviction do not include those cases where appeals are pending.
The researchers assessed 270 Colorado prison inmates charged with violating prison rules and who, after a disciplinary hearing, were placed in one of three prison environments. Subjects in the first group, which included individuals with or without a mental illness, were placed in a super-maximum security environment in which they were locked in their cell 23 hours a day. Inmates in the second group, which also included individuals with or without a mental illness, were assigned to a general-population maximum-security housing unit, where they had more out-of-cell time per day than the first group had.
Whereas some of the inmates' psychological health deteriorated over the course of the study, this was generally not the case, even among inmates in solitary confinement. "We were surprised that only a small number of inmates in segregation got clinically worse," Metzner told Psychiatric News.
Is this newsworthy? We have known for a long time that crime rates dropped dramatically during the 1990s, after we saw the folly of our soft ways and got tough. The drop continued, although at a slower rate, in the years following. The rate of gun homicides specifically would be news only if there were reason to believe that gun homicides were a special category. But the data don't show it. The drop in gun homicides is the same, within about a percent, as the drop in homicides generally for the same period. It is also reasonably close to the drop in violent crimes generally for the same period.
The cause of crime is criminals, not weapons.
The use of small samples is finally getting some attention. The May issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience has the article Power failure: why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience. The abstract:
A study with low statistical power has a reduced chance of detecting a true effect, but it is less well appreciated that low power also reduces the likelihood that a statistically significant result reflects a true effect. Here, we show that the average statistical power of studies in the neurosciences is very low. The consequences of this include overestimates of effect size and low reproducibility of results. There are also ethical dimensions to this problem, as unreliable research is inefficient and wasteful. Improving reproducibility in neuroscience is a key priority and requires attention to well-established but often ignored methodological principles.It's about time.
Currently RCT evidence does not support that psychological interventions reduce the risk of sexual offending. High-quality RCTs with minimal bias and long-term follow-up in the community are required to identify interventions that can reduce sexual reoffending rates.And Dr. Hanson's commentary:
The current review is likely to have little impact on practice. Although their search was thorough and their analysis competent, there was not enough evidence to make strong conclusions. Furthermore, the majority of the available RCTs did not examine sexual recidivism, but only intermediate outcomes (such as social anxiety), which may or may not be valid risk indicators.So the data isn't all that great and we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. That's fine, but what the Cochrane review said was that current evidence does not support the notion that psychological interventions reduce sexual reoffending. We can believe in our heart of hearts that it should - and maybe it does and those studies just haven't been done yet - but as scientists we need to accurately report what the data shows. Dr. Hanson was accurate in his commentary but all too often what scientists want to be true clouds what the data actually shows.
Two things jump out on this graph. First, after a rapid rise the percent of drug offenders peaks at 21.8%, in 1990. Second, from 1990 forward the fraction steadily declines, with only a few upticks here and there, to 18.4% in 2008; by 2009, it was down to 17.8%. In other words, in 1990, nearly 80% of all prisoners were non-drug offenders, and by 2009 that percent had risen to more than 84%. And almost all of these other inmates are serving time for violent or property offenses.
Adding in the federal system, which is much more drug-focused--about half of all federal prisoners are serving time for drug crimes--does not change numbers or trends much: 24.1% in 1990, 22.1% in 2009. This is unsurprising: despite the extensive (in fact, quite excessive) attention it receives from legal academics, the federal system held only 13.5% of all prisoners in 2011, and until the 2000s it wasn't even the largest prison system in the country, lagging behind California.Since this data is presumably derived from publicly available sources, one wonders why it has taken so long for the message to get out.
In drug policy debates, there is a lot of oversimplified claptrap on both sides. A note of caution on marijuana comes to us from across the pond. The title of this post is the headline of this story in the London Telegraph by John Bingham.
Huh? Could the fall of the Berlin Wall really have had the pernicious effect of causing people to be criminals? No. That is not what the study actually shows.
Start with the unremarkable proposition that good parenting is a major determinant in whether a person grows up to be a law-abiding citizen. Add the equally unremarkable proposition that, as an overall trend, babies born to families who planned to have them are more likely to be blessed with good parenting than those whose arrival was not a desired result.
Next, if events cause great uncertainty for the future, so that women who would otherwise have had planned pregnancies decide to put off their childbearing for a few years, then the unplanned will be a greater proportion of the cohort of children born in those years. If the unplanned have the same crime rate as they otherwise would, the overall crime rate for the cohort is higher because their numbers are not buffered by as many of the planned children as they otherwise would have been.
That is apparently what happened in East Germany in the early 1990s.