Crime

Are We Really Seeing a 'Nationwide Crime Wave'?

And what's behind the increase in Baltimore's homicides?

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Many pundits on the right, most notably Heather Mac Donald, have been hyping a "new nationwide crime wave" they blame on a "Ferguson effect." Jason Linkins throws some cold water on the argument:

…and the people who call him that are causing a crime wave!

[T]here's no denying that there are a number of urban police departments that have themselves some problems. But does all of this add up to a "new nationwide crime wave"? I'm afraid not. Further examination tells a story of cherry-picking.

For instance, as you go through [Mac Donald's] three-paragraph flurry of frightening statistics slowly, you become aware that there's a lot of mixing and matching happening. Homicides are compared to shootings. Robberies are broken out in one instance, while in another instance, the whole of one city's violent crimes are bundled together under the banner of "other violent felonies."

New York City's scary stat, to Mac Donald, is the murder rate. I can see why: according to CompStat, homicides thus far this year are up in comparison to the rate over a comparable period of time last year. And yet, if you just glance over to right of the spreadsheet, you'll also learn that the homicide rate in New York City is down 32 percent when compared to five years ago, and down 83 percent compared to 22 years ago. All of which indicates that New York City's darkest days are well in the past, regardless of this year's slight spike. Speaking of, the overall rate of violent crime in New York City is actually down by nearly 7 percent this year.

When Mac Donald talks about Los Angeles, however, suddenly she's not worried about the homicide rate. Instead, the frightening data point becomes "shootings and other violent felonies." When you look at CompStat, you see why: although incidents of rape, robbery and aggravated assaults are up, the homicide rate isn't.

What tells the more accurate story about a crime wave, homicide rates or total violent crime? For Mac Donald, it's whatever statistic looks more alarming.

There's more, culminating in the observation that if you look at the nation's 15 largest cities as a group, the murder rate is actually lower this year than last year. You should read the whole thing, but the takeaway is that any talk of a "nationwide" crime surge is at best premature, at worst sheer fearmongering.

The more interesting question, at least from my perch here in Maryland, is why homicides have been leaping in Baltimore.

There's no denying that they've increased sharply since the April riots, though there's strong disagreement as to why that's so. One major theory, echoed recently in a Time article, is Mac Donald's: The cops are withdrawing and the crooks are emboldened. (The officers are usually said to be simply holding back out of fear, now that their colleagues have been charged in the killing of Freddie Gray. But some variations suggest that we're watching a surreptitiously coordinated police protest.) The other major theory—ignored by Time but cited fairly frequently in the Baltimore press—highlights the many pharmacies looted during the rioting. If those stolen drugs moved onto the black market without passing through the usual organized channels, that obviously could set off turf wars or other violence.

What neither of those theories can explain is a fact noted by an invaluable local website, the Baltimore Brew: Shootings in Baltimore actually started increasing over the winter, when Freddie Gray was still alive. The problem has intensified considerably in the last two months, so no one's denying the role the riot played; it's just that there seems to be another street dynamic at work as well, and us outsiders haven't figured out what it is yet. When I mentioned this to one reporter last weekend, he offered this explanation: "Stephanie"—that is, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake—"just doesn't know what she's doing." I certainly won't argue with that, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't explain everything.

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66 responses to “Are We Really Seeing a 'Nationwide Crime Wave'?

  1. Homicides leaping in Baltimore? Well – I blame Bush.

  2. So, despite their best efforts to create crisis the results are spotty at best. All we have are small, localized shitholes getting shittier.

    Imagine that.

    Me, I blame the Second Amendment.

    1. And Bush.
      The band, not the President. They sucked.

      1. I blame the beans, they rolled that beautiful bean footage one too many times.

  3. I don’t know about Baltimore, but NYC’s was definitely a regression to the mean. 2014 was an outlier on the low side.

    1. Baltimore could be a case of the cops instigating an unofficial work slowdown because they are pissed they couldn’t get away with Freddie Gray’s murder.

      1. This makes the assumption that cops are effective at preventing homicides. I have my doubts.

        1. I would imagine drug dealers have the police deal with a competing dealer by busting him so that the other dealer doesn’t have to kill him.

  4. Statistics are funny things sometimes. Tennessee always gets ranked as one of the most dangerous states, mainly because of Memphis (and Knoxville to a degree). Meanwhile in 2013 Nashville had a TOTAL of 42 (FORTY TWO) homicides the WHOLE YEAR, breaking a record that was set in 1962 when the city had a quarter of the amount of people it does now.

    1. States with one particularly violent urban center often have ludicrous homicide rates that aren’t indicative of how dangerous most of the state actually is. Louisiana only has a population of 4.7 million. New Orleans has a population of 370,000, so New Orleans is about 1/13th the total state population. New Orleans also has a homicide rate of 57.6 per 100,000 compared to a really high homicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 for the state. What’s the murder rate of the state outside of New Orleans though? There are 200 murders in New Orleans a year. Based on my math, if Louisiana had 4.7 million people and 10.8 per 100,000 homicide rate, then Louisiana as a whole had about 500 murders, so New Orleans had 40% of all murders in the state despite having 8% of the state’s population.

      1. Break that down further and we find that particular neighborhoods within metropolitan regions are to blame for a huge % of crime.

        So what we have are particularly lawless neighborhoods, typically ones reeking of statist intrusions and perverse incentives where rights aren’t enforced in property or person–surrounded by a city with massively lower crime rates. In other words, hubs of pre-private property barbarism surrounded by the reasonably safe & getting safer world that everyone else knows.

    2. Statistically speaking, we’re all a dead Chinese woman.

  5. “What neither of those theories can explain is a fact noted by an invaluable local website, the Baltimore Brew: Shootings in Baltimore actually started increasing over the winter, when Freddie Gray was still alive. The problem has intensified considerably in the last two months, so no one’s denying the role the riot played; it’s just that there seems to be another street dynamic at work as well, and us outsiders haven’t figured out what it is yet. When I mentioned this to one reporter last weekend, he offered this explanation: “Stephanie”?that is, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake?”just doesn’t know what she’s doing.” I certainly won’t argue with that, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t explain everything.”

    Actually, the fact that the homicide rate is increasing the last two months doesn’t prove that the riot played a role. Warmer months have more crimes than colder months. Therefore, if this is accurate and the rate began spiking over the winter, then it isn’t surprising that once you hit April/May/June the rate increased even more due to the weather effect.

    1. Yeah, as anyone in Chicago knows, the shootings start when it gets warm. Well, they don’t start then, but there are way more of them.

      1. That’s because the police don’t want to get out of their air-conditioned squad cars.

        I wonder if there are any statistics on how slowly the police response is to a 911 call when the temperature is below 25 or above 85 compared to the response time of the 25-85 temperature range.

    2. Actually, the fact that the homicide rate is increasing the last two months doesn’t prove that the riot played a role.

      It doesn’t prove it, but given the size of the increase I’m not inclined to blame it all on the weather.

    3. Just stop it. No one will be able to prove or disprove a causal link to any contrarian’s satisfaction. Even if every fool who committed a crime in Baltimore confessed that they did it because the riots proved that the police won’t do shit, there would still be people claiming there isn’t causation, because of “root causes” nonsense.

  6. The cops are withdrawing and the crooks are emoldened.

    Emoldened? That can’t smell good.

    Seriously though, police don’t prevent crime. They (are supposed to) investigate it. The only way they could embolden murderers is by not investigating murder. Considering the number of murders that currently go unsolved (around 65%, more in big cities), murderers already have better than 50/50 odds of getting away with it.

    1. Emoldened? That can’t smell good.

      Whoops. Thanks; fixed.

  7. Are We Really Seeing a ‘Nationwide Crime Wave’?

    No.

    Next question?

    1. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

      1. “Has a police dog Buddha-nature?”

    2. “If the Pope shits in the woods, does a bear hear it?”

    3. Look, do you want to find a convenient excuse to try to ban guns and nationalize municipal police forces (which will surely make them more responsive and responsible, featuring benefits such as your own neighborhood ATF SWAT team), or don’t you?

      Stop being part of the problem, pal.

  8. you’ll also learn that the homicide rate in New York City is down 32 percent when compared to five years ago

    Well duh, isn’t there some kind of police union work slowdown going on there?

  9. Right around Garner, it seemed that the right was finally starting to acknowledge that the police could be wrong.

    Then deBlasio made his speech, those two cops got shot, and Baltimore riots happened. Now, the Law and Order, COPS RULE conservatives are back in the driver’s seat.

    It’s just like how the rise of ISIS is empowering the war boner crowd.

    There was a time when I was thinking, “I hope that a TEAM RED person wins in 2016, just so satirists and the media do their jobs.” Now, I’m less sure. The closer they get to power, the more they feel the need to remind me, “Yeah, we’re still TEAM RED fucktards. That didn’t change, and any positive moves were more window dressing than anything else.”

    1. I have zero faith that TEAM RED will see the light any time soon barring some complete epiphany involving Rand, but as you say I would still rather have them in power right now because at least the media will do its fucking job while they are in power as opposed to the current media fellatio of the current occupants of the top.

  10. Uh, the “Crime Wave” hysteria is not being promulgated solely by “the right”.

    CNN: “The video of a gunman brazenly opening fire on another man in the Bronx in May, or another gunman caught on camera firing across the street at someone in Harlem in April, spread so swiftly online that it is fair to ask if a crime wave is on the horizon

    ‘video spreads quickly’ = sign of ‘crime wave’.

    Given the negative growth rates that crime in major urban areas has experienced for the last 20 years, it is pretty easy to throw up the occasional quarter where “murders spike 50%!…” (to levels still way below the average of the 1990s)

    if mendacious employment of statistics were a crime…

    1. Indeed. “Hot town, summer in the city” has always been used by Progressives to simultaneously push for more firearms restrictions (Saturday Night Specials, anyone?) while also calling for more social programs targeted toward the ghettos…because money solves everything.

      1. When I was a kid Dallas kept water parks open even during droughts because they said it cut down on violence. I don’t know if they were right, but if they were, that’s some cheap-ass crime control.

        1. Indeed, because no gang ever considered a public park to be their turf.

      2. +2 for 2 song titles in one comment. You get a free music download from a pirate site.

    2. You may enjoy Darrell Huff’s classic book “How to Lie with Statistics”.

      1. It is the basis of my career

      2. Did you hear about the statistician who drowned crossing a river? He’d determined that the water was 2 feet deep, on average.

    3. The fact that pictures of Caitlyn Jenner spread quickly online proves that everyone is getting sex changes now.

  11. Alt-text: I think there should be a stronger word than “pig” for a necrophilic pedophile cop.

    1. Oh good. I’m not the only one who thought that.

      1. I thought it was a terrible ad for a weird romance novel line of books.

  12. some variations suggest that we’re watching a surreptitiously coordinated police protest.

    Since (IIRC) the police were told to let the mall get looted and the pharmacy get burned, they may just be continuing to follow orders.

  13. This made me look up homicide rates in Pennsylvania. I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with Chester, Pennsylvania, but it had 88 murders per 100,000 last year.

    2014 and 2013 were pretty cold summers in the Northeast. That might make 2015 look worse for no other reason than people are marginally more pissed off.

    1. Nine murders in Montreal so far this year.

      http://bit.ly/1M7Z7vz

      1. You have to repeat that in French.

        1. And put some smug into it.

          1. Neuf meurtres a Montreal. Nous sommes pas des sauvages comme les Americains!

            1. That’s more like it.

    2. I only know Chester as the site of Philly’s soccer stadium and I had heard it is kind of a ghetto but I didn’t know it was that bad.

  14. So. Will I be safe when I go watch the Orioles in August or not?

    Get your shit together Baltimore. Rufus is coming and he wants PEACE NOW!

  15. BTW, that picture is priceless Jesse.

    1. I remember seeing that billboard in Minneapolis and thought it sort of odd at the time and I still do.

      1. With the “KIDSEXCHAGE” from yesterday, he’s officially on a creepy-billboard-roll

  16. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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  17. As an otherwise avid reader of City Journal, I learned to ignore anything Heather MacDonald has to say a long time ago.

  18. This has been an opportunity lost, I’m afraid.

    Aside from the background noise of bootlicking authoritarians, I put most of the blame on the race hustlers who descended immediately on these cities.

    Their mere presence induces a lot of people to just write the whole thing off as another scam from the usual suspects.

  19. She is not a moderate. She is an amoral crap weasel that will say and do anything to continue to suckle on the body public. then check all report news this way…. http://moourl.com/gjftp

  20. Actually, there is a localized spike in homocides committed by guys parading around in blue uniforms with badges and guns. We should probably implement some gun control regulations on these criminals.

  21. ‘video spreads quickly’ = sign of ‘crime wave’.

    Was the video copyrighted?

  22. Heather Mac Donald is a despicable authoritarian cunt, btw.

  23. It might just be because being a Baltimore city cop is a shitty, shitty job. There’s like actual crime, you get paid dick, and you have to hang out in crappy parts of Baltimore. I know of two Annapolis city cops who live in Baltimore ( or right outside, like Dundalk ) and a third Baltimore cop who’s trying to make the move; I know of zero Annapolis cops who moved in the other direction. This might just be the cumulative result of years of bad hires and no retention.

  24. “When Mac Donald talks about Los Angeles, however, suddenly she’s not worried about the homicide rate. Instead, the frightening data point becomes “shootings and other violent felonies.” When you look at CompStat, you see why: although incidents of rape, robbery and aggravated assaults are up, the homicide rate isn’t.”

    This is not a persuasive argument that neighborhoods are safer. This is an argument that motherfuckers are lousy shots.

  25. And the war on drugs continues

  26. Apparently, the people who looted those CVS pharmacies knew what they were after. I doubt any of them cared about Freddie Gray.

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  28. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…
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  29. “One major theory, echoed recently in a Time article, is Mac Donald’s: The cops are withdrawing and the crooks are emboldened.”
    Doesn’t make sense. Police don’t stop people murdering each other. Almost all homicides are of people that the perpetrator knows and occur when police are nowhere around. For that explanation to be true there would have to be lots of criminals who not only take note of the level or patrolling, but actually think it’s likely that cops will bust them at the time. So smart but still stupid.

  30. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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