Monday, December 20, 2010

Crime declines continued unabated in first half of 2010

Via Sentencing Law & Policy, here's a notable and welcome development regarding crime rates for the first half of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009: The FBI says they're going down significantly nationwide, as evidenced by this graphic:

Doug Berman's takeaway from this news hit most of the high points:
This continuation of the great crime decline is notable and exciting for lots of reasons. First, crime rates in 2009 were already relatively low (especially compared to crime rates in the 1980s and 1990s), and yet further reductions were achieved in 2010.  Second, given that the economy has not been great and that many states have been taking steps to reduce their incarceration rates, there were crime rate reductions in 2010 despite the presence of legal and social factors that many folks believe contribute to crime increases.  Third, low crime rates should help skittish politicians feel more comfortable backing "smart on crime" policy initiatives over the "tough on crime" political rhetoric.
As is my wont, I went to look at state and city level data for Texas and while I discovered some interesting tidbits, I also found the cities of of Austin and San Antonio missing from their data table for cities with more than 100,000 population. I don't know why that is and an email to the feds and a phone call to Austin PD's public information office didn't get any immediate answers. (UPDATE: Austin PD called back to say the mid-year submission is not mandatory but all their data will be in the year-end UCR report.) Overall, data for Texas cities tended to jibe with national declines, though some smaller jurisdictions saw increases, bucking national trends. Brownsville saw violent crime increase by a whopping 50%, though some of that is because their violent crime numbers were so small in the first place - e.g., murders there increased 200%, from one in the first half of 2009 to three in the first six months of 2010. Laredo and McAllen, by contrast, saw violent crime decrease by 15.4% and 18% respectively, and El Paso saw impressive reductions in violent and property crimes, belying any trend toward "spillover" crime from drug cartels across the river. For some reason, Killeen saw the second highest increase in violent crime and also led the state in the percentage increase in property crime from 2009.

Violent crime in Houston is down 8%; in Dallas it's down 4.7%, while there was a 3.8% increase in violent crime overall in Fort worth. See additional state and city level data here.


Anonymous said...

The numbers say one thing, but seeing the crime firsthand tells me the numbers are bullshit..

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:43, I'll take data reported to the feds by police departments over the word of anonymous blog trolls.

Anonymous said...

And i'll believe what i see with my own 2 eyes as opposed to a guy who knows how to copy and paste for a living...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So what do you see with your own two eyes? Clearly you're privy to information your local police department doesn't know about, right?

Anonymous said...

I'm a cop genius..the bogus numbers reported are done by number crunching geeks that play spin doctor to keep the talking heads from looking bad.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I know you're a cop, but you claim to know about crime that your agency didn't report to the feds.

Look at it this way: You see what's in front of you then presumably report it upstream. It's cops like you are who are the original source for this data. So tell us: When and why do you under-report? Or if that's not what's happening, what crimes are you regularly documenting that your supervisors leave out when reporting to the FBI? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...

They'll keep going down in Houston if the events of the last week prove typical of things to come. In separate incidents, two different merchants on the east side have gunned down a total of 4 robbers in the last 5 days! In the first incident, two of the dead thugs were of Honduran origin without any American identification. Go figure! At any rate, those are some "statistics" that make a difference! Praise the Lord and pass the ammo, Grits!

Anonymous said...

"So tell us: When and why do you under-report?"

Good question to ask DPD and other departments who have changed offense classifications and reporting procedures. They just haven't figured out how to reclassify murder yet. LOL!

Merry Christmas Grits and keep up the good work.

Retired LE

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I wish you anonymous trolls would at least use pseudonyms so we could tell if the last comment came from the same person as the previous ones.

For whatever reason, the number of murders has been consistently declining statewide, and there were 2 fewer murders in Houston in the first half of 2010 compared to 2009. Fewer murdered people is a statistic that "makes a difference," no matter how you slice it.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how the enhancing of charges (when cops and DA's file a more serious charge than warranted) influences these stats. If no accountability for this practice is worked into these stats, then real crime is actually even lower.

Prison Doc said...

You said it, Grits--just get rid of the anonymous trolls: require registration for posting. Many blogs I follow require this already. Let 'em put their money where their mouth is. You've got the power....

titfortat said...

My guess would be that all this will somehow explain how we are winning the war on drugs. LOL

Government statistics are about as believable as how well the stimulus worked.

Jeff said...

Grits, the "troll" has a point with the downplay of stats. I've run across it many times. A residential burglary is reported on the Uniform Crime Report to the FBI as a theft. That's old hat for some if not the majority of LE administrators and all the elected ones save your Constables (they likely spin it upwards for SWAT justification). The UCR is not validated by anyone whatsoever. And why should it be? Factoring in politics I would say the stats for crime aren't wholesale reliable. Given that O needs a win with something I'd say there some skewing with the Feds as well. We could legislate a fix, but we don't need more dang laws.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:50,

Enhancing charges means that the most serious charge gets reported - but only the most serious charge.

The charge of murder or non-negligent homicide tends to be, obviously, the most valid stat but it too can be manipulated, though only to an extremely limited degree. As the cliche states, murder will out - and that includes in stats as well as on the streets.

As for departments playing with the numbers (Chicago, Dallas and NY come to mind), if they play with them consistently over the years, the trend will probably still be accurate - if you lower 10 percent of aggravated assaults to a lesser offense, that 10 percent is consistent across the years. Lowering 10,000 one year to 9,000 and then lowering 8,000 the following year by 800 still shows a downward trend. In any case, looking at the numbers just gives a general picture - and that picture is a lower crime rate at this time.

As for a cop (anon 1:43) who works in a shithole, after a few years everything starts to look brown. :~)

Anonymous said...

I suspect Grits a reason for the Killeen violent crime numbers are due to Fort Hoods deployment then returns of units from Iraq and Afgan.

Please do not take my post as slamming to the military. I myself am a 10 year vet. I believe my point could be valid however seeing as you have the largest military base west of the Mississippi, with 3 combat divisions, and numerous combat brigades in that area. These young soldiers come home, amp'd up on survival instincts and might be having a difficult time re-adjusting to normal life. Just my opinion obviously, but I would like to see crime stats in Killeen versus the return to CONUS of combat troops from the Middle East.

All Ins. RB Cowboys said...

Grits - if crime is down, is it because counties see the budget shortfall and are not prosecuting, or Texas is hard and some finally get it, or elected officals padding the numbers for re-election, and so on and so on. I mean, people don't change in the free. I'd say, based on my 25 year history, lower crime rates justify funding cuts when in fact the state was going to do it anyway and politicians save face. It's like what Whitmire is doing in juvenile justice in Texas. Now Dallas has a big problem w/these little bastards. But it's not reported. Insurance companies are getting pissed and watch out, they'll play a role and they do lobby.

All Ins. RB Cowboys said...

I.E. Big Insurance is tired of paying out these claims, property, auto.... so lets be clear, their will be some lobbying....

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Retired LE/Jeff, the juking of crime numbers in Dallas is the example I'm most familiar with. That focused on just a couple of types of crimes and they were only able to notch down those by a point or two. IMO rigging the stats, particularly for violent crimes, probably can't account for recent years' steep declines. I also don't believe that happens in every single department, yet crime is down across the board.

Anonymous said...

"The numbers say one thing, but seeing the crime firsthand tells me the numbers are bullshit.."

Scott seems to have decided to ignore what his pets do so he can pretend they are all innocent and that they are the real victims. He seems completely blind to what the victims of crime--the victims of his pets--have suffered.

He will write anything to ceaselessly promote his slant.

titfortat said...

I don't know about all that 01:43sounds a bit personal on your end. However,the problem with these reports is that they (are) skewed for one reason or another. The FBI reports on the input they receive and there is no measuring stick for the accuracy of this information.

If given true numbers the results could be dramatically different and could very easily end up with arrows pointing up instead of down. A false positive indicating that America must be doing something right serves to bolster the ideas that we should continue doing these right things which in all likelihood means spend more tax money that does not exist plain and simple.

Why are there no arrows pointing up or down indicating the positive or negative results for drug crimes?

The criminal justice system has spent more money on the WOD than any other category yet no arrows.

This report gives only the positive and is then reported by the media informing everyone that all is well, yet a real war that exists solely because of widespread self induced criminal activity in America threatens our southern borders. Our murder rate is down and our neighbors have skyrocketed to the level of mass genocide.

Move along, nothing to see here, move along.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:33, please, by all means, point to any evidence you know of that contradicts the FBI's data. Otherwise, it's you and 1:43 who have "decided to ignore" facts in favor of skewed opinions for which you've offered no evidence.

Titfortat and others: I agree the data are a) inconsistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and b) sometimes manipulated for political reasons. But over time, for reasons identified by 9:48, they're generally a good macro-indicator, or at least the best information anybody has got. They're certainly superior evidence than the subjective observations of one, embittered street cop.

Also, drug crimes aren't included in UCR "index crimes," is why there's no listing for them.

Anonymous said...

"Of course us ignorant rubes might be tempted to think higher incarceration rates might have something to do with it...but that's just uninformed crazy talk."

Anonymous said...

Ah, the pet guy (8:33) strikes again. Why do you delight in the whole "blah blah his pets this and that, blah blah pets" thing? How bout you just shut the f*ck up, until you have something cogent to say? We get it, you think Grits has some kind of unwholesome affection for criminals, and you don't like it. Now that we have acknowledged your (dumbass) feelings, perhaps you would kindly shut your hole until such a time that you have have something different to say? Monotony is imo the worst vice a person can have.

Anonymous said...

"Of course us ignorant rubes might be tempted to think higher incarceration rates might have something to do with it...but that's just uninformed crazy talk."


Incarceration is trending down in many areas across the country (with a net reduction) while crime continues to go down with it. Grits is right that the stats can only be rigged so much. I think they are to a degree for sure, but I don't believe the trend we've seen in the last few years is all statistical manipulation. Furthermore, if you look at per capita incarceration rates and crime rates state-by-state, you'll see the relationship between both of them isn't so simple and there are many other variables at play.

So I think it is shortsighted to say that high incarceration rates, and increasing them year after year, is the right solution for crime.

Anonymous said...

Intent to commit a felony or theft is presumed if entry is committed at night.

Apartment targeted

The incident: On July 1, Kenneth Hintzen saw a man breaking a rear window to get inside his far northeast Dallas apartment just after someone knocked on his front door. The would-be intruder fled when he saw Hintzen. A police officer noted in his report that it was a "spoiled burg[lary] attempt."

How it was handled: The Dallas Police Department classified the incident as criminal mischief, meaning it did not count in the city's burglary tally.

What the victim says: "When the window broke, the only reason he didn't come in was because I yelled at him," Hintzen said. "It should be a burglary. It's not a criminal mischief." Nearly two weeks later, burglars broke into his apartment and stole thousands of dollars in property. Police subsequently made several arrests and recovered his property. Hintzen says the suspects were the same people he saw during the first incident.

What police say: Police say the incident was correctly classified because there is no way to know the intent of the would-be intruder.

Office building's ordeal

The incident: On June 12, intruders unscrewed a piece of metal and entered a storage building behind the main office building of Unified Investigations in north Oak Cliff. A patrol officer noted in her report that it was the "third night in a row this company has been burglarized."

How it was handled: The incident was initially recorded as a burglary. A detective later had it reclassified to a criminal mischief, noting that nothing was taken.

What the victim says: "Was there criminal mischief? Yes, but it was subsequent to the burglary," said Kelly Kistner, a company official and a Hood County reserve officer. He said the intruders kicked a hole in the wall and went into a storage room and rummaged around.

What police say: Police say the incident was correctly classified because there is no way to know the intruder's intent.

Anonymous said...

Liquor store break-in

The incident: In the early morning hours of March 10, intruders punched a hole in the roof of George's Liquors and lowered themselves inside, triggering an alarm. Responding officers heard a loud noise from inside the tiny brick building in South Dallas. Two intruders fled as officers rounded a corner to check out the noise.

How it was handled: The patrol officers who responded to the scene deemed the incident a burglary, and it was initially categorized as such in the city's crime numbers. But a detective subsequently requested that it be reclassified as criminal mischief, noting that nothing appeared to have been stolen.

What the victim says: "Criminal mischief is more like when you break somebody's windshield when you're mad at them. They broke in to steal, most definitely," said Elizabeth Skall, whose family has owned the store for more than two decades.

What the police say: After the report was brought to the attention of Dallas police, they say they have decided to reclassify the crime back to a burglary.

Crime at convenience store

The incident: On Aug. 18, would-be intruders tried to break through a back wall at the One Stop convenience store in South Dallas. They then used a pry tool to open the front door. The report notes that the suspects couldn't climb over a metal gate, but knocked down a display in the front of the store. "The comp [complainant] has had several burglaries in the past few months, one such occurring a week ago," the police report states.

How it was handled: The incident was initially categorized as a burglary, but a detective subsequently had it reclassified to criminal mischief.

What the victim says: Sharif Nekzad, a store manager, provided surveillance video to The Dallas Morning News that shows the would-be intruders backing a van to the front of the store and using an ax or sledgehammer to get inside the front door. "They were coming to steal," Nekzad said.

What police say: Police say the incident was correctly classified because there is no way to know the intent of the would-be intruders.

Anonymous said...

Ideologues create their own reality w/o being hindered by facts.

Rev. Charles in tulia

titfortat said...

Government statistics are without question (suspect). Federal and State funding are often times predicated on Local Governments participation in criminal justice initiatives perceived to be effective. To continue to be perceived as effective positive outcomes are required. Once funded local government typically finds ways to utilize funds how they see fit. Given this very real scenario it is easy to believe that numbers can be significantly skewed until they reflect positive outcomes for continued funding.

It is very easy to respond to this by demanding proof; however the keepers of the numbers do purposely hide true results so it can be very difficult if not impossible to find so much as a starting point without input from the boots on the ground that offer eye witness verification.

I would not be so quick to dismiss the police officer as being bias, unless of course his statements create a conflict with your own views which obviously reflects your own bias. Government initiatives are enacted right or wrong, effective or not according to ideological political swing and should be scrutinized in order to discover the truth, not dismissed to hide it.

For clarification my last statement is not directed toward you Grits.