Friday, October 27, 2006

Governor claimed phony drop in border crime, experts say

I've been waiting for this other shoe to drop ever since I heard Governor Perry's claims last week on TV about massive reductions in border crime.

Turns out it's a bunch of hooey. From the El Paso Times ("Experts question Perry's border crime assessment," Oct. 26):
Stunning borderwide drops in crime that Republican Gov. Rick Perry last week attributed to state border security efforts are more likely campaign calculations than accurate statistics, according to experts and some law enforcement officials.

In news conferences and campaign television commercials last week, Perry lauded state-led border security operations he said reduced crime 60 percent borderwide and kept Texans safe from terrorism.

But Perry's top homeland security official acknowledged that the numbers used to calculate the average crime decrease do not prove a sustained drop in crime from El Paso to Brownsville, do not include crime rates in major border cities, and do not account for other possible reasons for the decrease.

"The smart user and creator of data takes all those things into account, but the politician just uses data and ignores what's not convenient," said UTEP sociology and anthropology Professor Cheryl Howard.

So to calculate big crime reductions, they excluded statistics from all municipalities where most people live, only using stats from unincorporated regions. Then they only calculated statistics for a few counties, and only during periods when law enforcement was conducting five so-called "surge operations," reports the Times.

Talk about cooking the numbers!

It's too soon to know for sure, but there's a pretty decent chance when it's all said and done that Operation Linebacker and other border security initiatives didn't reduce border crime at all, not in the big picture. That's partially because they're spending the money on the wrong things, and partially because there's a limit to how effective supply-side enforcement solutions alone can really be at reducing immigration or drug smuggling.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

mtspace thought "the point would be better made if we knew exactly what Perry said."

Well, he claimed a 60% crime drop "on the border," without adding any of the caveats described above. In the El Paso Times article, when reporters asked for details the Perry camp literally had no data to back it up. See also quotes from the article by actual cops on the border:

"We've seen absolutely no changes at all," El Paso Police Chief Richard Wiles said. "Overall crime is down about 1 percent in El Paso, Wiles said, but the department is struggling with increases in auto thefts, burglaries, robberies and assaults.

"In Laredo, where some of the most violent crimes related to drug gangs have been reported just across the border, police department spokesman Juan Rivera said that department was not asked to participate in state efforts. "We're having an average year" for local crime rates, he said. "We're not seeing anything out of the ordinary."

Doesn't sound to me like crime is down 60% on the border. How 'bout you?

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you picked up on this! They are referencing crime totals or rates as determined by the number of arrests and the number per population. And the arrests are only counted for 7 different categories of crime (drug crimes are not among them) -- the totals of these 7 categories are meant to be an index over a long period of time, a generalization of whether crime is up or down. Changes from one year to the next are less important than general trends over time. More important in this instance is that a 60% change in either direction is not unusual in any rural area, where there are not many violent crimes anyway. In a populated area, a 60% change would be impossible and indicative of missing data.
Most unusual, though, is the fact that increasing law enforcement efforts actually resulted in fewer arrests!! Instinct would say that more would be arrested. Crime is measured by the number of arrests, but they've decreased crime by increasing law enforcement? I say it's an election year buy off and a bunch of bs!