Saturday, July 14, 2018

Crime still plummeting; juvie arrests down 57% in TX since 2010

In May's Reasonably Suspicious podcast, we discussed the remarkable decline in DWI and public drunkenness arrests statewide in Texas over the last few years, but it turns out that's part of a broader trend. Arrests of all types have declined a lot.

DPS arrest data is only available through 2016, but from 2010 to 2016, the number of adults arrested  in Texas dropped by 26 percent, from more than a million to 759,000, falling more or less in tandem over the period with the reported crime rate.

Juvenile arrests in Texas declined even more, dropping an eye-popping 57 percent over the same period.

The percent reductions in DWI and drunkenness were even greater for adults, so those charges are a leading cause of the statewide decline. But the reduction in overall arrests tells us this is a bigger trend, not just an issue related to alcohol consumption.

As I'd mentioned on Twitter, polls show most Americans believe crime is increasing, despite these remarkable trends in the opposite direction. Indeed, not only have crime rates fallen since 2010, they were falling for nearly two decades prior to that. Arrests didn't begin to decline until much more recently.

This reduces pressure on cities to hire more police officers, on counties to expand jail capacity, and ultimately reduces the need for the state prison system to keep so many units open.

That's bad news for local probation departments, the bail-bond industry, and the criminal-defense bar, all of whom see their revenue decline as a result. But for everyone else, there's nothing but a tremendous upside.


Anonymous said...

Very good news indeed. But scaling back on criminal justice spending while our state continues to grow so rapidly would be a huge mistake. As you know well, Grits, crime rates are cyclical and often correspond to the fluctuations in the economy and employment rate. Texas has been riding a very successful wave for awhile now but it would be foolish to expect the good times will go on forever.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's what folks like you were saying to me in 2001, 7:52, and since then crime has continued to fall and we've now closed 8 prison units. So no, not a huge mistake to adjust spending accordingly, it's responsible governance.

You write, "crime rates are cyclical and often correspond to the fluctuations in the economy and employment rate." This is false. Economy has gone up and down over the last 25 years; crime has only fallen. The supposed link btwn crime and the economy is BS, the Great Depression was a remarkably low crime period. What we're seeing is a new normal which has sustained over multiple recessions, not some theoretical "cycle" that hasn't been true (if it ever was) since the 1980s. Around 2010 there was a rash of articles asking if we'd reached the bottom of the crime decline. Contrary to law-enforcement predictions, the answer turned out to be "not remotely." IMO we still haven't seen the bottom - all the big picture trends pushing crime lower are still in play.

Finally, it should be mentioned that crime in Texas is HIGHER than elsewhere. The "very successful wave" is not a trend of our own making. In fact, there's a strong argument to be made that Texas' git-tuff policies have prevented us from benefiting as much as other states from the less-crime, bc we still overincarcerate and thus lock up low-risk prisoners with high risk ones.

So we can BOTH reduce the justice system's footprint more AND continue to reduce crime, recycled arguments from the 1980s notwithstanding.

Ray Collins said...

Went to the APD community forum at the south substation on the 11th. Crime YTD through June 30th was compared for 2017 and 2018. Just one example: 3 2018 homicides versus 0 2017 homicides. Far right column of table: homicides up 300% - true and awful, but....

Been expecting to see that and other percent increases in the headline of some hack news report.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@Ray, homicides are a bad example bc numbers are so small that a few extra look like a big percentage. There are also problems with relying on YTD numbers. But overall, arrests in Austin are way down.

Arrests in 2010: 48,754
Arrests in 2017: 31,645

If APD said crime is on the increase at the forum you went to, they're spreading misinformation. It wouldn't be the first time.

Ray Collins said...

That part of the presentation was mostly Commander Dusterhoft with a little Commander Eveleth. They didn't push the percent increases, it's just that the way those tables were set up really stood out as amateur hour to me after decades of looking at research and clinical trial data presentations with much subtler attempts to present data in the best possible light. Here's my raw notes, and FWIW I'm no cop hater. I recently commended Commander Eveleth to Chief Manley and council for something he said at an earlier forum.

"violent crimes down except homicides three for first 6 months of 2018, 0 for 2017

property crimes all down except auto theft
179 YTD 6/30/18 versus 154
half auto thefts are people who left keys in car to run into house, pay for gas
every single car burglary has been an unlocked car in eveleth’s neighborhood south austin
metro cops, id people who are repeat offenders, go to DA, this person needs special attention.
pulling metro cops, district representatives, putting them on patrol, things like auto theft suffer

robbery 12 vs 9 YTD June 30 2018 vs 2017
aggravated assault 90 [In retrospect, I wonder if this number is a typo.] vs 8
non-residential burglary 107 vs 105
auto theft 177 vs 127
burglary of vehicle 621 vs 558"

There is also this comment of my own in my notes: "council mentioned often by speakers in reference to what apd can do"

Steve said...

As the director of a medium-sized probation department, I see this as good news, not bad news. It adds evidence that what we’re doing is working. When you look at the Legislative Budget Board’s 3 year rearrest rates for all adult populations (prison-parole-probation) probation always has the lowest rearrest rates. Our job is to change lives so people won’t come back into the system; in other words, we’re trying to work our way out of a job. A reduced population is really NOT a financial issue because as the population decreases, we just let positions go vacant. The real issue is that we can’t seem to get more money to pay our officers. Costs for treatment services and other services go up, and what little extra money we get goes to those services. We never get the substantial increases we need to pay our staff what they're worth, hence we have people leaving to work for Federal Probation, Child Protective Services, Juvenile Probation, and Parole.

Anonymous said...

Houston and Dallas would love to have numbers like Austin but the fact is, so many cars are broken into and/or stolen that a growing number of folks just don't report the BMV's any more. Both of these large cities require jumping through hoops to get a report taken if you happen to suspect someone you know or is related to you, and Dallas PD almost refuses to take a stolen report until the car has been gone a few days since a percentage of "stolen" cars are just misplaced by owners, repoed, or what have you (I forget the specific speech one of their commanders gave to justify this approach but it seems to remain true. They want you to send a demand letter to the possible thief if related or known, many just give up trying until they are notified of their car's appearance within a week.

But the statistics can be manipulated by either side of the discussion, Grits has mentioned yearly spikes being less indicative of trends in past blogs, yet police departments routinely will jump on an increase to sell fear, whether that increase was a statistical aberration or not just as Scott will pick numbers from 10 or 20 years ago to compare. Houston's police chief was flapping his gums to explain some decreases in crimes by claiming President Trump's immigration rhetoric was causing a lot of residents in Houston to stop reporting crimes if their status was in question. His commanders still lump generic violations in with their other numbers to scare the public too, like talking about human trafficking but providing numbers of arrests for prostitution related crimes as though they were the same thing. My point is not to suggest our host is nearly as bad as the official resources but to remind everyone that all numbers can be manipulated so you have to look at them with a skeptical eye.