Friday, July 25, 2008

Crime statistics matter. Sometimes. Depending on who you ask.

Dan Gardner had a great article in the Ottawa Citizen today about the recent stats released showing that in most areas crime rates in Canada continue to fall. Mr. Gardner goes through all the ways in which such statistics are trumpeted and lauded or ignored and derided depending upon such variables as the political leanings of the the commentator, the policy objectives of said commentator, and the price of tea in China.

A few highlights (go read the whole article lazy bones!):

"When national crime stats decline, everyone rushes to take credit...

My favourite reaction to last week's news was the line worked up by some spin monkey in the office of Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien: "New chief, new mayor, new approach. It works." Of course, this is utter nonsense -- not only did crime decline in cities across the country, the decline in Ottawa was actually less than the national average -- but Mr. O'Brien is a politician and in politics neither logic nor modesty is a virtue."

"The reaction of the justice system's critics to crime statistics depends entirely on the direction in which those statistics are headed.

If statistics show crime is rising, the statistics are a perfectly accurate reflection of the frightening reality.

If they suggest crime is falling, they are so transparently flawed that only fools, Liberals and criminologists would believe them."

"When serious violent crime rose a couple of years ago, Mr. Harper, then the opposition leader, waved the statistics about like a bloody shirt. Homicide is up 12 per cent! Guns, gangs, and drugs are out of control!

But then the stats turned around and Mr. Harper started warning people not to be bamboozled by numbers. 'Some try to pacify Canadians with statistics,' he scoffed in a speech earlier this year."

"'Mind you,' rejoined (Claire) Hoy, 'one in five homicides in Canada occur in Toronto but hey, when you count murders as a percentage of the overall population instead of counting them as dead bodies, it's easy to brag about how "safe" the city is.'

Mind you, by Hoy's logic, a village with a population of 50 in which one person goes on a rampage and kills the other 49 is safer than Toronto because the hamlet's body count is lower. I suspect the population of the village would dispute that interpretation. Or they would if they weren't all dead."

Go read the whole article. It's spot on.

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Black-Boy said...
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