Friday, January 12, 2007

Homeland security committee bases border plan on bogus crime stats

Unbelievable: How is it that with the last year to study the problem, the Texas Senate Homeland Security Committee appears to have less information about what's going on at the border than is printed in the daily newspapers?

The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security has published its interim report, and at first glance I'm shocked to find the Committee using utterly discredited crime reduction figures to claim border security efforts have been a success. Said the committee's interim report (p. 50):
The Office of the Governor has been documenting the success of the Linebacker program. Reduction in crime in an area is calculated by looking at a certain month and basing the calculations on the same time frame for the previous year. In Operation Del Rio, the Texas Army National Guard, DPS and Border Patrol SWAT teams, four separate aviation components, four separate water patrol units, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and seven local law enforcement agencies helped reduce the Mexican organized criminal activity in a three-county area along the border. The crime rate was reduced by 76% in Val Verde County and 27% in Maverick County after this program. Operation Laredo yielded similar results, resulting in a 65% reduction in crime over a five-county area. This means that the number of reported crimes and calls made decreased by 65-75% from the previous year in the same month.
Certainly the office of the Governor did make that claim during the height of the campaign season while he was spending millions running ads on television claiming he would stop "terrorists" from crossing the border. But anyone who made a good faith effort to research these topics (the report is larded with 226 footnotes) would have seen the El Paso Times coverage debunking these numbers, both last fall and even as recently as last week. As I wrote in October:
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!
These are not credible estimates of the impact of the Governor's policies on border crime (which despite all the hype was already relatively low). In fact, the Times reported crime actually increased over the period Operation Linebacker was in effect. Yet the committee used these bogus, campaign-generated statistics to justify the following finding and recommendation:
The Committee finds that efforts initiated by Governor Rick Perry's office in cooperation with local law enforcement have been effective in increasing security along the border. The Committee recommends the continuation and full funding of these efforts.
I'm sorry but the best available evidence doesn't remotely justify that conclusion. If Texas really is now in a $4 billion budget hole, I don't see how anybody could justify continuing this failed, highly politicized public relations gambit on the border.

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