Violent crime fell slightly in the U.S. last year, according to data released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, although big-city police chiefs recently warned that the number of killings this year appears to be rising.
According to the FBI, the number of violent crimes fell 0.2% in 2014 compared with the previous year. Property crimes decreased by 4.3%, according to the data.
Last month, the Major Cities Chiefs Association held a meeting in Washington to discuss a spike in killings this summer. Some law-enforcement officials fear that trend may signal an end to two decades of falling crime rates.
Police made more than 11 million arrests in 2014, and about 73% of those arrested were male.
Murder and manslaughters decreased 0.5% to 13,472, according to the FBI estimates, while robberies fell 5.6%. Rape and aggravated assaults increased about 2%, the agency said.
There are multiple theories for the long decline in crime that began in the early 1990s. Some law-enforcement officials cite stricter enforcement of quality-of-life crimes, while others cite increased incarceration or improved tactics and technology.
Recently in Studies Category
Mindfulness Meditation Linked to False Memory Recall
The study suggests individuals who engage in mindfulness meditation may have less accurate memories than those who do not take part in the practice.
"This is especially interesting given that previous research has primarily focused on the beneficial aspects of mindfulness training and mindfulness-based interventions," notes first author Brent M. Wilson, of the Department of Psychology at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD).
Mindfulness meditation involves the act of eliminating distracting or negative thoughts, allowing intense awareness of one's senses and feelings.
The study (subscription required): "Increased False-Memory Susceptibility After Mindfulness Meditation."
The new analysis, called the Reproducibility Project and posted Thursday by Science, found no evidence of fraud or that any original study was definitively false. Rather, it concluded that the evidence for most published findings was not nearly as strong as originally claimed.
"Less than half -- even lower than I thought," said Dr. John Ioannidis, a director of Stanford University's Meta-Research Innovation Center, who once estimated that about half of published results across medicine were inflated or wrong. Dr. Ioannidis said the problem was hardly confined to psychology and could be worse in other fields, including cell biology, economics, neuroscience, clinical medicine, and animal research.
This is hardly surprising news to anyone in the field who's been paying attention but it's good news that it's getting some widespread attention. There is an epidemic of Overclaim Syndrome in many parts of psychology that desperately needs the antidote of modesty.
I was taken aback when I read Justice Breyer's reference to Prof. John Donohue's law review article about racial bias in Connecticut's administration of its capital sentencing scheme. That a United States Supreme Court Justice would quote an article about a study that was thoroughly rejected in litigation is astonishing. This is especially so in this instance, when the proponents of Donohue's study kept his written report from the habeas court to also block admission, on hearsay grounds, of the devastating and unqualified evisceration of his study by the state's expert.
I'm equally concerned that Justice Breyer cited the report without questioning the validity of Donohue's "egregiousness" scale. After all, Donohue just made up the scale and never tested it objectively to determine whether it indicated anything meaningful or relevant about Connecticut's capital sentencing scheme. Thereafter, when his egregiousness results--compiled by law students from scrubbed summaries--disagreed with the results dictated by the statutory criteria for imposing a death sentence--as evaluated by experienced prosecutors, judges, and juries based on all the evidence--Donohue determined that the latter were arbitrary.
Violent crime hits people with disabilities more than twice as often as people without disabilities, according to a study just released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.As we have noted many times on this blog, getting tough on crime was a major factor in the dramatic reduction of crime during the 1990's and 2000's, and those who have forgotten history and seek to repeat it put all of us in danger. But they put persons with disabilities in even greater danger.
The federal study shows that in 2013, the rate of violent crime against persons with disabilities was 36 per 1,000. The rate of violent crime against persons without disabilities in 2013 was 14 per 1,000.
One good thing about election prediction models is that we get quick and conclusive results about whether they are right or wrong. Charles Forelle has this story in the WSJ about the meltdown of British pollsters in last week's election.
The website FiveThirtyEight, run by statistics guru Nate Silver, who made his name with accurate predictions of U.S. presidential elections, used a model developed by British academics. It came up with 278 seats for the Conservatives and 267 for Labour, and put the probability at 90% that the Conservatives would win between 252 and 305 seats. They won 331.The difference between the prediction and the outcome was double what was supposed to be a 90% confidence interval. That's more than failure; that's crash and burn.
The reason I bring this up is to remind everyone to be skeptical when someone asserts that some proposition is proven because "studies show" it to be true when the studies are based on mathematical modeling. Such models can provide indications but not definitive proof, and it is a serious error to rely on them entirely.
The role of intent in distinguishing criminal acts from noncriminal accidents and higher-degree offense from lower ones is deeply ingrained in our law. It may be deeply ingrained in our brains. Robert Sapolsky reports for the WSJ on a study of scanning people's brains as they read about intentional and unintentional killings. The study is Treadway, et al., Corticolimbic gating of emotion-driven punishment, Nature Neuroscience 17, 1270-1275 (2014).
But we still hear claims that there is no relationship between mental illness and crime or violence. We hear this despite numerous studies, including several population-based studies, that have shown time and time again that there is indeed a relationship between mental disorder and crime. The latest issue of Psychiatric Services provides the latest evidence:
Bipolar disorder is a severe and prevalent psychiatric disease. Poor outcomes include a high frequency of criminal acts, imprisonments, and repeat offenses. This critical review of the international literature examined several aspects of the complex relationship between individuals with bipolar disorder and the criminal justice system: risk factors for criminal acts, features of bipolar patients' incarceration, and their postrelease trajectories.Methods:
Publications were obtained from the PubMed and Google Scholar electronic databases by using the following MeSH headings: prison, forensic psychiatry, criminal law, crime, and bipolar disorder.Results:
Among patients with bipolar disorder, the frequency of violent criminal acts is higher than in the general population (odds ratio [OR]=2.8, 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.8-4.3). The frequency is higher among patients with bipolar disorder and a comorbid substance use disorder than among those without either disorder (OR=10.1, CI=5.3-19.2). As a result, the prevalence of bipolar disorder among prisoners is high (2%-7%). In prison, patients' bipolar disorder symptoms can complicate their relationship with prison administrators, leading to an increased risk of multiple incarcerations. Moreover, the risk of suicide increases for these prisoners.Criminal acts are common among patients with bipolar disorder and are often associated with problems such as addiction.Conclusions:
The nation as a whole had a 6% drop in property crime over the two-year period, while California had a 3% increase, a difference of 9%.
Increased incarceration had some effect, likely in the range of 0 to 10 percent, on reducing crime in the 1990s. Since 2000, however, increased incarceration had a negligible effect on crime.
The fingerprint examiners correctly matched every single print in the tests, with only 3 percent of the inaccurate matches caught by a second examiner, which is part of normal protocol at crime labs across the country.That's rather awkward phrasing. Presumably it means that 3 percent of the matches found by the first examiner were not correct but all of the errors were found and corrected on the second examination.
Charlie Wells has this article in the WSJ on financial education of kids and their financial behavior as adults. It has nothing to do with crime, but it sounds a cautionary note about the argument we hear all the time. "Studies show that educational program X is correlated with positive outcome Y. Therefore we must spend more on X to produce Y, and that is more important and more cost effective than the solution only you ignorant rednecks believe in, Z." It does not follow.
The Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool (CSAT) - Parole has been corrected on the BJS website
Nearly two years ago, we noted a disturbing statistic from half-year preliminary crime data from the FBI. Here is an update from later and more complete data.
Of the categories of crime tracked by the standard statistics, auto theft is the category most likely to have been affected by California's prison realignment program. Auto theft was always a felony. Before realignment, it was therefore a crime for which a state prison sentence was always a possibility, although the judge had discretion to give a lesser sentence. After realignment, auto theft is a crime for which a person can never go to state prison. Not for the 97th offense.