The Problem with Stats…

Written by Scott

Topics: Archives, Uncategorized

Here in Tacoma (and I’ll safely assume with other cities across the country as well) stats like to be touted about falling crime rates. We’ve been here, and in the same house, for almost 10 years now, and I can tell you without any doubt that the stats are misleading if not just outright fabrications.

Some progress has been made. For instance, when we first bought the house and moved in, we regretted it almost immediately. In the middle of the night, there was a 2-on-1 brawl in the middle of the street in front of our house. The police who responded at that time were far more open than current, and informed us of the background, and the fact that the house was occupied by gang-affiliated people. That part has gotten much better, mostly in part to some good people moving into the neighborhood and helping transform it.

Property crime, though, is another story. Through the years we’ve had cars broken into (2), cars run into by hit-and-run drunk drivers (2-with 1 totaling the car and sending it up into the neighbor’s yard), windows broken out (3 or 4, with the most recent before last night just being a few months ago), and things stolen from our porch.

We no longer report them. And if our experience is similar to that of other people in Tacoma, I’m absolutely positive few report. Why? The Tacoma Police Department prefers to make excuses for why they can’t take a report than to actually do things about the problem. (They like to claim that a) they are too busy with higher-priority crimes and b) that the Prosecutor’s office will not prosecute for anything under $1000.)

In two different cases, we’ve had to engage our City Councilman (and thank God for him) in order to get ANYWHERE with them…and oddly enough, once politics is involved, things happen quickly.

So where do stats come in? I’m mentioned in previous posts about one of my favorite little books in college–How to Lie with Statistics. I tend to be skeptical, and this book, though written in the 50’s, definitely helps fuel that. Essentially, here’s the issue: if, because of apparent Tacoma Police Department apathy toward “lower” crime, people report fewer crimes, the stats show a drop in crime rate. Politicians love this, and love even more to take credit for it.

But that doesn’t make it true.

Comments are closed.