Crime

Fearmongering About the 'Ferguson Effect'

If you pay attention to what crime numbers actually say, you're a "smug left-wing journalist," apparently.

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It SAYS Don Siegel directed it, but we all know Black Lives Matter is REALLY responsible.
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Much like those liberals who spent 2009 through 2011 leaping past the evidence to insist some rhetoric they dislike was fueling a rise in right-wing violence, many conservatives are now intent on leaping past the evidence to insist some rhetoric they dislike is fueling a rise in anti-cop violence, or perhaps even a rise in crime altogether. A recent rant along these lines in FrontPage mentions me:

Smug left-wing journalists Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post and Jesse Walker of Reason snickered at the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald when she argued in late May that after two decades of falling crime rates nationwide, anti-cop sentiment was boosting crime rates.

The "most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months," wrote Mac Donald in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Walker wrote at the time that "any talk of a 'nationwide' crime surge is at best premature, at worst sheer fearmongering." Linkins wrote that Mac Donald's column contained "a load of hot nonsense."

The writer refrains from reporting why I said Mac Donald's claims of a crime wave were "at best premature, at worst sheer fearmongering," and he doesn't link to the post where I said it either. So here it is. As you can see, my problem with Mac Donald's column was that she highlighted the statistics that are consistent with a crime surge while ignoring the stats that aren't. Since we don't have nationwide numbers for this year to date, any claim that a national crime wave exists, let alone any explanation for it, is premature.

The FrontPage writer seems to think we do have those numbers:

According to the New York Times article dated Sept. 1, homicides committed to this point this year are outpacing homicides committed to this point in 2014.

But the article in question doesn't say anything about national homicides rates; it is specifically about some cities where murders and/or violent crime in general are rising. (I wrote in more detail about what the Times piece does and does not say here.) When the full numbers for 2015 are available, we may well learn that violent crime went up across the country this year. Then again, we might not: After the Times piece came out, Bruce Frederick of the Vera Institute of Justice decided to see what the homicide numbers were for the country's most populous cities. "Among the 16 top-20 cities for which I found publically available data," he reports, "only three experienced statistically reliable increases."

It's almost as if "any talk of a 'nationwide' crime surge is at best premature, at worst sheer fearmongering." To quote a phrase.

This isn't the only time the FrontPage writer invokes numbers invisible to everyone else. "Execution-style cop killings and assaults on police" have been "becoming more commonplace" since December, he claims. As it happens, cop-killing is one crime where we do have an ongoing nationwide count to draw on. Guess what? They've been less common in 2015 than they were at this point in 2014. The number conducted execution-style can be counted on one hand. I of course don't want to see even one person murdered, but to call this "commonplace" is to abuse the language.

The FrontPage piece makes some other strange claims too. At one point, looking for explanations for the crime boom, it declares that Barack Obama has engaged in "relentless anti-police rhetoric"—rhetoric so far-out that it's "as if Obama pal Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist and Black Power supporter who helped to launch Obama's political career, were running the White House communications office." Just so you know what sort of comparison is being made here, in 1970 the terror group that made Ayers infamous bombed the NYPD headquarters and then issued a communiqué that includes such lines as "The pigs are our enemies" and "The pigs try to look invulnerable, but we keep finding their weaknesses." If the president's rhetoric along such lines has been "relentless," there ought to be plenty of examples FrontPage could quote. Needless to say, the story doesn't cite any at all.

There's more, but it isn't really worth the time to catalog all the kookiness. With the FrontPage piece, I think we can skip past the "at best premature" bit. Whatever 2015's crime stats end up looking like, this is just fearmongering.

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  1. Americans used to applaud people who rebelled against authoritarians. What happened?

    1. Grievance-mongering became a lucrative industry.

  2. “Smug left-wing journalists Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post and Jesse Walker of Reason”

    And still the above comparison will not get you invited to any cocktail parties.

    1. I just want to get invited to a good barbecue. Will someone please tell me how to adjust my politics so I can get invited to more barbecues?

      1. Well maybe if you wrote something pleasant about the New England mammal that is so adept at throwing that dried deflated (aledgedly) cow skin. Sports topics seem to encourage mammal gatherings around cooking meat. Speaking of my bosses thoroughly enjoy charcoal cooking… Do any of your recipes work with bipeds? Um asking for a friend

        1. We cook chicken all the time.

      2. Trump Trump Trump, Trump Trump. Trump Trump, Trump Trump?

      3. You’re invited to my BBQ that was yesterday.

        1. Ribs?

          1. 3 full racks of spares. Applewood, with Salt Lick’s spicy mustard sauce.

            There was some chicken too, but who cares about that bullshit???

      4. Step 1 is “Move to someplace where they do good barbecue.”

        As long as you aren’t obnoxious about your politics (from any angle), you’ll get invited. BBQ people are like that.

        1. I.e., Texas.

      5. TRUMP! You may even get a helicopter ride out of it.

      6. Barbecue season ended yesterday

        1. Well, here in Tucson it just got cool enough to start barbecuing, so there’s that.

        2. Barbeque is 364 days per year. Texans don’t typically bbq for Christmas.

          1. *It is also okay to deep fry rather than barbecue your Thanksgiving turkey.

      7. Drop by my house any time, Jesse. Give me 24 hours and I can do great barbecue. And all the politics you want.

  3. “The number conducted execution-style can be counted on one hand.”

    I’m surprised there are *any* cases of execution style slaying. Tying your victim to a bed and injecting him with poisons is too complicated for most murderers.

    1. Expensive, too

  4. HOW DARE YOU QUESTION POLICE AUTHORITAH!!!

  5. And a social justice warrior.

  6. Is smug a synonym for “right”?

    1. If the other sides is right…well, sure!

  7. You’re always the last one to know, eh Jesse?

  8. According to the New York Times article dated Sept. 1, homicides committed to this point this year are outpacing homicides committed to this point in 2014.

    I believe that where I live, shootings and homicides are up, but none of the victims are cops.

  9. in 1970 the terror group that made Ayers infamous bombed the NYPD headquarters and then issued a communiqu? that includes such lines as “The pigs are our enemies” and “The pigs try to look invulnerable, but we keep finding their weaknesses.” If the president’s rhetoric along such lines has been “relentless,” there ought to be plenty of examples FrontPage could quote. Needless to say, the story doesn’t cite any at all.

    That’ll teach me to get my hopes up about anything Obama is claimed to be saying.

    1. Glorious Leader has renamed a mountain!

  10. CHECK OUT THE SUUUUUURRRRRRGE (2009-2013)

    Preliminary 2014 data came out in January

    “All the offenses in the violent crime category?murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape (revised definition), aggravated assault, and robbery?showed decreases when data from the first six months of 2014 were compared with data from the first six months of 2013. The number of murders declined 6.0 percent, the number of rapes (revised definition) declined 10.1 percent, aggravated assaults decreased 1.6 percent, and robbery offenses decreased 10.3 percent.”

    2015 So Far? as noted by Jesse = a very few cities are seeing some uptick… but even in those few places (Milwaukee, Baltimore, St Louis, etc) if the trend is “up” rather than down… the numbers are still lower than they were 10 years ago, and the multi-year trend is still down.

    1. Oh, and THIS is how this sort of data is being reported by the ‘Fair and Balanced’ set

      1. I just looked up Milwaukee murder stats, and in 2004 there were 87 murders in the city, followed by 121 in 2005.

        Obama is so evil that his anti-police rhetoric caused a 39% increase in murders 4 years before he was even elected.

      2. I’m still at a loss as to why dangerous criminals killing each other is such a bad thing…

        1. Any cop death is an assault on society, but I wasn’t aware that many were killing each other.

          Oh wait, you mean those other dangerous criminals.

  11. Since we don’t have nationwide numbers for this year to date, any claim that a national crime wave exists, let alone any explanation for it, is premature.

    Appeal to authority much?

    Of course we have those numbers. It’s just a matter of compiling them. How many cities have murder rates that have stayed the same or gone up? Those numbers, to date, are out there. They get reported in local newspapers across the country.

    And they’re not pretty.

    When fourth and fifth tier cities are whining about rising murder rates something’s going on.

    Now, ferguson effect stuff–the idea that the cops are pulling back–well that’s true. They’re doing it all over the country–for the chicken reason–‘they’re killing us’, and the spoiled brat reason–‘no one appreciates us’. Is THAT the ferguson effect? If so then it is very likely that crime is up because police aren’t doing their jobs.

    MacDonald might do what she can to make ‘petulant, chicken’ policing sound better, but the effect might just be what she says. The cause might just be uglier though.

    1. “Appeal to authority much?”

      Appeal to authority is when you claim that “Important People Say X”, therefore X is true and valid by dint of its association with Important People.

      i.e. “But *NASA* people said Climate Change is teh reals!? WHY ARE YOU DENYING!?!””

      ” Those numbers, to date, are out there. They get reported in local newspapers across the country.’

      Yes, dipshit. Look at my above comment. Even in the very few cities where the fearmongers are touting “half-year” numbers…

      (and FYI, you don’t “annualize” crime the way you do GDP)

      …the actual numbers are still below where they were 3-5 years ago. Crime rates are still trending down. Your bullshit argument has no merit.

      1. you don’t “annualize” crime the way you do GDP

        True enough. You really need to compare “same-store” murders YoY.

        1. lol

          I meant that the smaller and more arbitrary you make the unit of measure, the easier it is to gin up claims of “Dramatic Change!”

          It falsely presumes an underlying consistency to the data that isn’t actually ever there.

          Meaning, any one month can have 10 murders, and another just 1 or 2. You can’t project any actual “annual trend” or draw any significant conclusion from a few months.

          Even YoY data is mostly bogus as there is often 10-20% up-down changes that don’t reflect any “trend”, but rather just the average volatility of the underlying stuff you’re measuring.

          ….its the longer sets of 5-10-20 years actually show the real underlying trend.

    2. Appeal to authority much?

      That’s an appeal to data, not an appeal to authority.

      Of course we have those numbers. It’s just a matter of compiling them.

      You don’t have numbers that haven’t been compiled.

    3. First:

      “Appeal to authority much?”

      Then:

      “When fourth and fifth tier cities are whining about rising murder rates something’s going on.”

      So your argument is that we shouldn’t appeal to authority because you’re going to appeal to authority. Without crime stats, we can’t know if there’s been any actual increase in murder rates nationwide and cherry picking individual cities that are making a ruckus isn’t the same thing as providing evidence.

    4. I would suggest that saying the numbers don’t exist because the authorities haven’t yet put them on a platter for you is appealing to authority. No? There is more than one way to appeal to authority.

      The numbers are out there.

      Gathering the initial reports–police reports and suchlike that are, in fact, collected DAILY in cities and towns all over the country is not impossible. It’s like you don’t understand that cities, towns, and counties are compiling this stuff every day. That private citizens can do it by following the police reports in papers all over the country

      I’m not sure why the numbers ten years ago matter. I don’t think anyone’s saying that the murder rate is as bad as it was ten years ago.

      But a lot of smaller cities and towns are complaining about an uptick.

      And here’s the part that annoys me, boys–it’s an uptick that I ascribe to police petulance and cowardice–the only things I see rising as a direct result of Ferguson.

      1. I would suggest that saying the numbers don’t exist because the authorities haven’t yet put them on a platter for you is appealing to authority. No?

        No, that isn’t what “appeal to authority” means. And while the information is obviously out there, you don’t have a count til it’s been counted.

        It’s like you don’t understand that cities, towns, and counties are compiling this stuff every day.

        It’s like you don’t understand that not every jurisdiction makes this info instantly available. I’ve gone through CompStat data and similar sources when putting up posts like this in the past. That’s why I’ve been able to, say, describe recent fluctuations in the New York homicide rate. The entire country, though?that’s another story.

        1. Ah, so saying that the data doesn’t exist because it hasn’t been handed down from ……authority……? isn’t an appeal to authority. Okay.

          And while every, single jurisdiction may not have a local or regional paper with a police blotter, most do. And they record murders, shootings and the like whether or not cops or local politicians like it or not.

          Sure, it’s not as easy to get as it is to wait for the official number, but it’s there, and available.

          1. Ah, so saying that the data doesn’t exist because it hasn’t been handed down from ……authority……? isn’t an appeal to authority.

            Correct.

            And while every, single jurisdiction may not have a local or regional paper with a police blotter, most do.

            Oh, you can’t depend on the press for your numbers here?not if you’re looking at year-to-year trends. They miss too much. (The police miss a lot too, which is why people do crime victimization surveys: to try to catch the stuff that doesn’t get reported to the cops. But the media tend to miss the same stuff the police miss, and then some.)

  12. The FrontPage piece makes some other strange claims too. At one point, looking for explanations for the crime boom, it declares that Barack Obama has engaged in “relentless anti-police rhetoric”?

    This is such utter bullshit. Obama and the left in this country have created the police state through their fascist policies demand and encourage a massive source of enforcement violence. You think all that egalitarian progressivism enforces itself?

  13. Adding insult to stupid….

    …is the idea that “crime is rising because Police are *stepping back*….

    ….from….. doing what they normally do…. which is, “responding to crimes *after* they’ve happened”…

    …wait a minute?

    This idea that “Police (magically!) Prevent Crime” in some otherwise-normal situation is apex-retarded.

    Police *report* crime. They respond to crime. They don’t fucking intimidate crime into the shadows by sheer force of Will, which if they relax for but a moment allows the shadow of Mordor to spread into the happy lands.

    1. Maybe it means that they’re not responding to calls, and that is emboldening criminals.

      911 Operator: “What is your emergency?”

      caller: “Someone broke into my house!”

      911 Operator: “What do you want us to do about it?”

      *click*

      Then again, that wouldn’t be any different than the norm. In my experience cops could care less about crime victims. They seem to only care about victimless crime against the state. Probably because victimless crimes are easy to prove, while crimes with actual victims require actual work. That and they can’t rob a burglar of all his assets, which they can do with drug dealers and the like.

  14. Really, does FrontPage even merit a response?

    1. Equal time. We’d respond to Backpage if necessary.

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