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  • Baffled “Experts”

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on May 24th, 2011 (All posts by )

    Today’s New York Times had an article titled “Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts“. The article describes how crime has fallen across the country at a time when the crime “experts” thought it would increase.

    There was no immediate consensus to explain the drop. But some experts said the figures collided with theories about correlations between crime, unemployment and the number of people in prison. Take robbery: The nation has endured a devastating economic crisis, but robberies fell 9.5 percent last year, after dropping 8 percent the year before.

    Interesting – you can see the key elements of the “expert” model:

    1) unemployment
    2) number of persons in prison

    Not mentioned above but likely another key variable in their model is the number of male individuals in the key age range for committing crimes – I don’t know exactly what that is but I would guess it is something like 18-25.

    Throughout the article, as is the norm in the New York Times, there is no mention of ANOTHER key variable that has been added to the equation over the last few decades – gun owner rights. The only time guns come up in the paper is when 1) there is some sort of sensational murder of multiple individuals and they want to blame the type of weapon used 2) someone who clearly should not have a gun like someone who should have been committed to a mental institution uses one to hurt someone.

    But while it is not even a variable to consider to these experts OBVIOUSLY gun owner rights deter criminals. The presence of armed civilians who are able to defend their homes and now their persons in most states (only Wisconsin and Illinois have no form of concealed carry) is a form of deterrence that criminals would be aware of, since it is a factor for THEM to consider on the types of crimes that they commit. For example anyone doing home invasions in Texas would have to be insane; you’d need to be armed to the teeth and willing to kill the home owner in cold blood and face a death sentence for the chance to walk away with some home electronics?

    The saddest part for me is that either all of their journalists have been actively trained NEVER to mention guns as a source of positive outcomes or, more likely, the journalists are all selected from the same pool of people that actually THINK that way. Certainly if you went to a private school out east somewhere or were educated in England it would never occur to you that guns could impact crime favorably, because these sorts of stories never occur in print.

    When I am overseas I have fun talking to people about Indiana, a state bordering Chicago which is actually part of the metropolitan area, where you should assume that many people have concealed carry and the background checks are reasonable and yet it isn’t the “wild west” at all. They really don’t believe me, and part of it is that those stories just aren’t told. Of course they don’t even know that they are in a concealed carry state unless someone tells them. And from their perspective, the most dangerous places to be are those that have the MOST RESTRICTIVE gun laws, which also seems counter-intuitive to them but since no one explains this in more depth they just drop it and assume Americans are “gun crazy”.

    I don’t mind newspapers having an opinion, even an opinion that I disagree with. What irks me is the fact that I genuinely believe that they have ruled out guns having a positive impact in all scenarios without questioning that belief and frankly it is sad. Whether it is stated policy or just something that comes with hiring the staff it is a clear fact.

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    12 Responses to “Baffled “Experts””

    1. John Says:

      I never worked for the Times but I did work in journalism, including for a large east coast newspaper with national distribution. That was also 20 years ago, so take it for what it is worth, but at that time and place it was definitely coincidental hiring bias.

      They were mostly hiring people with similar backgrounds and without much awareness of innate bias at any level. For most of these people “Guns Bad” was an article of faith far deeper and far less examined than any religious creed I’ve ever heard of. It was more like assuming everyone has to breathe; beyond any shadow of question. People who thought otherwise weren’t even wrong, just incomprehensibly crazy.

      The demographic and profile of the plurality of news producers and writers was interesting too, but a bit off topic so I’ll leave it for another time.

    2. knirirr Says:

      … if you … were educated in England it would never occur to you that guns could impact crime…

      There are always exceptions, of course.

    3. Ralf Goergens Says:

      The headline of the article you link to mentions major crime. There is a limited number of people who commit those, and a high incarceration implies that those are mostly put away. An increase in unemployment also won’t turn basically honest people into violent predators, but they might become shoplifters or some such if they are desperate. So it might be more useful to ask about a possible increase in petty crime.

      As to reported major crime, you have to consider that police forces had their budgets cut. They simply don’t have as much money for investigations or doing patrols as they used to, so the decline in reported major crimes might not indicate an actual decline but rather a decline in the quality of the reported data.

    4. Fred Leland Says:

      I am baffled myself, I have been a cop for 26 going on 27 years and we have never been busier and I work a small town of 25,000 people just outside of Boston. I am baffled at the stats that have been released, because every cop I have spoken to says crime has increased both property and violent crime; breaking and entering, shopliftings, vehicle thefts, larceny’s are up, domestic violence is also up along with alcohol and drug induced violence. When I heard the report discussed on radio the other day my fist thought was I must have misheard the report “major violent crimes and also property crime is down???” I simply question the statistics (which I have not done ever in the past) because experience says something else. I could be wrong but something just does not seem right with the numbers. So not only are the experts confused those out there dealing with the problems are confused as well!

    5. Michael Kennedy Says:

      My daughter will be living by herself in Tucson next year. My first thought is to get her to practice with the Walther PPK I will be giving her to keep there next year.

    6. veryretired Says:

      I don’t know what to make of Off Leland’s anecdotal comment, since he certainly has experienced something different than these stats would indicate, but I thank him for his many years of dedicated service.

      In the final analysis, the demographic that truly matters is young, unattached males—more of them usually means more trouble of one kind or another. I can only assume that the recent census would show a smaller generation of young males passing through society at the present time.

      As a side note tangentially related, I seem to remember reading that the combination of the one child rule and readily available abortion has resulted in a generation in China in which males outnumber females by many millions. That’s quite a bit of untamed testosterone, and I can imagine it causing no end of trouble for everyone if it starts slopping over China’s borders.

    7. Tatyana Says:

      May be they wanted to pave the road for the stunning Supreme Court decision re: California releasing 46,000 prisoners? As in – since crime goes down, there is less danger of recidivism, and releasing all these inmates will not result in spike of violent crimes? I don’t know, I’m trying to provide logic for them, but I can’t get into their mode of thinking.

    8. LFMayor Says:

      The book Freakanomics had an interesting take on the rise of crime through the early 80’s and then it’s abrupt fall. Abortion. Readily available abortions removed great numbers from the major source suppliers of the criminal class. They simply ran low on recruits.

    9. Anonymous Says:

      Veryretired: It isn’t just China. This article from Economics points out that it is not only also India, but also several smaller countries.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      The drop in crime “baffles” the “experts” because the expert the New York Times seeks out are leftists and Leftists are largely incapable of objective analysis.

      Instead, all Leftist’s analysis arise from the perspective of exploiting a real or imagined problem to advance the power and status of elite Leftists. Leftists believe that poverty “causes” crime because they can then exploit crime for power, status and money by claiming that more public spending aimed at reducing poverty will reduce crime. When a Leftists sets down to think about crime, they don’t start with a blank slate and say to themselves, “Okay, how can really reduce crime?” Instead, they reflexively set down and think,”How can we use fears of crime to make ourselves more important?”

      In fact, there has never been any correlation between bad economic times and crime. Crime either remained flat or fell during the Great Depression. Raising material standards of living has no effect on crime rates. The average poor person in America has a material standard of living equivalent to a middle-class American 40 years ago yet poor Americans don’t have crime participation rates equivalent to middle-class Americans 40 years. Neither does poverty correlate with crime in the short term. There are many immigrant populations in the US who are desperately poor and lack basic language and job skills needed to obtain middle-class jobs yet their crime rates are as good or better than middle-class Americans.

      The strongest predictor of criminal behavior is an individual’s sub-culture. If the culture teaches individuals that they are atomized and alone and that the broader society is constantly cheating them, then members of that sub-culture are more likely to be able justifying turning to crime regardless of their objective socio-economic status. Conversely, sub-cultures that teaches individuals that they are connect, supported and required to be moral regardless of the actions of the broader society, produce very few criminals.

      Explaining crime in terms of subculture, individual choices and effective criminal justice system, however, does not increase the power and status of Leftists. That is why Leftists so rage against concealed carry and other individualistic responses to crime. Concealed carry isn’t centered around Leftist so they hate it.

      That is why the “experts” are baffled. They reflexively seek an exploitation that Leftists can exploit so they can’t generate an actual predictive model. It would be useful to Leftists if poverty causes crime so they assume that bad economic times will increase crime.

      That’s really there is to it.

    11. Mlyster Says:

      Well said Shannon—-as usual.
      ‘Poverty=Crime’ is right up there with ‘More spending=Better Education’ and ‘Gun Owner=Drooling Rightwing Yokel’ for the political and publishing class.
      Poverty figures themselves, as we know verge upon the nonsensical; I recall (any and all, pls correct me) that 70% of those in official poverty own an auto, most have air conditioning, and over 75% own at least one cell phone. Poverty is pretty good, these days.
      What prompts, or at least enables criminal behavior is one’s social milieu. Effete upper middle class kids in Manhattan buying drugs are committing crimes no different than inner city youths selling them: lack of parental and social constraints upon both allow the behavior to flourish. In contrast, I suspect the crime rate in, say Salt Lake City UT is quite low, and relatively flat across all socioeconomic levels, because the societal norm does not tolerate it. College and grad students as a group are largely impoverished; are they rampant criminals? Doubtful.

      But this is too complex, and even worse: too contradictory to the Party line among liberals. It is the oppression by the wealthy of the downtrodden minorities and workers that somehow prompts them to commit crimes. It’s simple, it’s convenient, and it allows the liberals to maintain their Ptolemaic, wheels-within-wheels version of How Things Work. Don’t bother asking them to look through the telescope: they already know that they are right, and hence do not need your inconveniently confusing Alternative Theory.

    12. Mlyster Says:

      PS: (sorry): I live in AZ in a town of 50-some thousand; many retired police officers and military; many, MANY gun owners. Some people are fairly well off, and a good number live in house trailers.
      Domestic crimes, robberies, and such? Not too many. Why? Probably because criminals resent gunshot wounds.

      Someone looking for a great PhD topic should correlate gun shops per capita (three on Main Street, here) with crime rates.
      I’m betting on a close correlation, but maybe it’s just the loony, Bible-clinging rightwing gunowner in me, talking.