Monday, August 20, 2007

Tricky statistics don't make Dallas safer, or even look safer

Dallas police hope to reduce the city's crime rate by playing statistical games instead of making the city safer.

A new statistical methodology, reported the Dallas News ("Revised crime stats won't help Dallas' highest ranking," Aug. 16), "could further drive down the numbers, although actual crime remains the same." Uh ... so who cares?

This is all about appearances - Dallas officials don't like the marketing disadvantage of being perennially labeled the most crime-ridden major city in America. Well then, do something about the crime, don't just mess around with the statistics so that they're no longer comparable from year to year. (Hint to Dallas officials: What you've been doing isn't working. Try new things.)

Meanwhile, the Dallas commissioners court continues to underfund the jail, the DA's office, probation services, and the public defender, then somehow expects the criminal justice system to function properly.

Dallas has a completely full jail with nearly 7,000 people in it - more than the entire state prison systems of Delaware, Nebraska Hawaii, Maine, and quite a few other US states - and also the nation's worst municipal crime rate among large cities. What does that tell you about the relative effectiveness of incarceration at reducing crime?

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