Monday Morning Thoughts II: Data Keeps Pointing Away From Crime Wave

Police Blue

Police Blue

In October, FBI Director James Comey caught the Administration and Justice Department off guard when he said that “additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers in the wake of highly publicized episodes of police brutality may have led to an increase in violent crime in some cities as officers have become less aggressive.”

Mr. Comey’s comments continued to lend credence to the “Ferguson Effect” theory that “is far from settled: that the increased attention on the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals.”

But the data out of New York show that crime actually dropped in the city this year. The New York Times reports this morning that, while “many New Yorkers said they felt less safe,” “fears that New York City was slipping back to a more dangerous time contrasted with reality.”

“As reflected in the reported levels of the most serious types of crime, the city in 2015 was as safe as it had been in its modern history. A modest decrease in reported crime is expected by year’s end,” the paper reports. “The Police Department is reporting a 2 percent decline, as measured by seven major felonies that are tracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation: murder, rape, robbery, serious assault, burglary, grand larceny and car theft.”

However, murders did tick up from 333 last year, a historic low, to 339 as of December 25 this year. Putting those numbers into better context, in 2010 the number was 536.

Moreover, “despite an early increase in gun violence, the final tally of shootings for the year is set to come in slightly lower than last year’s figure.”

Once again, these data show the need not to overreact to short-term trends in crime. There is a bigger picture that factors into annual crime rates and an even bigger picture of a longer term trend.

“As we end this year, the City of New York will record the safest year in its history, its modern history, as it relates to crime,” said Commissioner William J. Bratton. At the same time, it is has been a tough year for the department, which lost four officers in the line of duty. “It has been a year of great contradictions,” he said, struggling for words.

The New York Times editorial this morning puts all this into better context.

They write: “The warnings began even before Bill de Blasio was sworn in as New York City’s mayor in January 2014. A safe New York depended on the aggressive policing tactics that began in the 1990s and flourished under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly. Without those tactics, the doomsayers said, the city would be swamped by a 1970s-style crime wave.”

The Times continues that Mr. Kelly warned the public when a federal judge invalidated “stop and frisk.” He said, “Violent crime will go up… No question about it.”

Writes the Times, “That prediction has, of course, been proved wrong, as crime in the city remains at historic lows under Mayor de Blasio and his police commissioner, William Bratton, even as arrests, stops and summonses continue to plummet after a peak in 2011.”

The Times cites a report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice that provides analysis behind the rise and fall of police “enforcement actions” over the past decade. That report found that, between 2011 and 2014, “the total number of these actions — defined as arrests for felonies and misdemeanors, criminal summonses, and stop-and-frisks — fell by more than 800,000, or 31 percent.

“The biggest drop was in street stops, which had skyrocketed to more than 685,000 in 2011 from 160,000 in 2003.”

Writes the Times, “Some officers admitted they felt constant pressure to meet arbitrary productivity quotas, but the effect was to disproportionately target young African-American men, most of whom were doing nothing wrong. By 2014, the number of stops was under 46,000 — a 93 percent decline in only three years, with stops going down most sharply in those poorer and minority neighborhoods where they grew the fastest over the previous decade.

“Why did the Police Department pull back on this behavior while Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Kelly and their defenders were proclaiming the need for continued aggressive policing?” the Times asks. “One factor was the growing public outcry against these tactics as they became more widely known. Another was the series of lawsuits filed by individuals against the city, which culminated in the 2013 ruling that found the department’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional.”

Writes the Times, “The report’s data firmly contradicts the view that crime would inevitably go up as stop-and-frisk and other enforcement actions went down. In 2014, rates of both violent and nonviolent crime in New York City continued to fall, and were almost 90 percent lower than they were in 1980.”

They add, “A recent uptick in murders in New York and other big cities has received a lot of news media attention, but that small increase masks the broader drop in overall crime.”

They conclude, “In March, Mr. Bratton predicted that police encounters with civilians would go down again this year, for a total of one million fewer encounters than at their peak just a few years ago. This is a positive and important change. But to keep crime down while also ensuring that all citizens are treated with respect, police officers must do more than end abusive practices. They need to focus on improving relations with those communities that often need the police most urgently, but whose trust has been damaged by those who failed to protect and serve them.”

These reports out of New York are encouraging but preliminary. They show that changes in police tactics do not have to result in increased crime. However, the key will be sustaining those with long term policy changes.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts II: Data Keeps Pointing Away From Crime Wave”

  1. Tia Will

    that the increased attention on the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals.”

    I find the words that we use to characterize police interactions with citizens to be very telling. The word used repetitively is “aggressive” as though “aggression” is an agreed upon positive attribute of police. How might relations between police and the communities they serve be different if the positive attributes were to be described as diligent, or engaged, or protective.

    When thinking of how I want the police to interact with  our communities, I would encourage diligence, engagement, and protection…..and save aggression only for those times in which there is an imminent physical threat to a civilian or officer.

  2. Biddlin

    https://act.amnestyusa.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1839&ea.campaign.id=39299&ea.tracking.id=Country_USA~MessagingCategory_Military%2CPoliceandArms~MessagingCategory_PrisonersandPeopleatRisk&ac=WPSGGTL39299&gclid=CjwKEAiAtf6zBRDS0oCLrL37gFUSJACr2JYbkxRB7wryns8FjKvs0LT4Ew-EIElb0NpcxVXx8QbISBoCYI3w_wcB

    Stand with Amnesty International USA in urging President Barack Obama and legislators across the country to support the creation of a National Crime and Justice Task Force.

    1. Barack Palin

      I was wondering the same thing.  In response to “Mr. Comey’s comments continued to lend credence to the “Ferguson Effect” theory”

      Baltimore: gun violence up more than 60 percent compared with this time last year;
      Milwaukee: homicides up more than 180 percent by the middle of May compared to the same period last year;
      St. Louis: shootings up 39 percent, robberies up 43 percent, homicides up 25 percent;
      Atlanta: murders up 32 percent as of mid-May;
      Chicago: shootings up 25 percent, homicides up 17 percent;
      Los Angeles: violent felonies up 25 percent;
      New York City: murders up 13 percent, gun violence up 7 percent.

      http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/21004-big-city-crime-up-thanks-to-ferguson-effect
      This is from June 2015, but still shows an upward trend.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        But that’s the point, in June NYC murders were up 13 percent, but for the year it didn’t end up that way. And gun violence ended up down for the year. So the upward trend didn’t hold.

    1. zaqzaq

      David,

      Feel free to pick Baltimore and the changes in policing that have occurred this year.  You should also change the David Greenwald  “reporting” to “opining”.

  3. Davis Progressive

    it seems like there are major problems in baltimore and chicago.  but other than that, it looks like there is no nationwide rise in crime.

    although crime may be down overall in chicago:

    espite warnings that protests against police brutality had caused officers to back down and crime to rise — a so-called Ferguson effect — an analysis in October by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy institute affiliated with the New York University School of Law, found a slight decline in crime over all in the nation’s largest cities. Some, like Chicago and Philadelphia, recorded lower levels of crime, the study found; others, like Los Angeles and Houston, saw an increase.

  4. Frankly

    I would feel quite exposed and precarious adopting this view that no increase in crime will occur in response to the ramped -up left political and media criticism of law enforcement. Gambling against common sense generally does not end well.

    1. Barack Palin

      Frankly, this is the narrative from the left that decreased policing is leading to less crime.  They have to push that mantra in order to try and validate what they have been instituting.  So as a result we’re going to see cherrypicked data that backs their agenda.

      1. Frankly

        They are going to paint themselves into a corner.  I guess they feel confident owning the mainstream media and given that the mainstream media will also have egg on their face having supported this absurd view that demanding police reduce their presence in these neighborhoods will result in a decrease in crime.

      2. David Greenwald Post author

        How is it cherry picked, crime nationwide is not only down this year, it’s at historic lows despite the rhetoric from the right (and not uniformly the right, but you’re branch of the right) to the contrary.

  5. Tia Will

    Frankly

    this view that no increase in crime will occur in response to the ramped -up left political and media criticism of law enforcement”

    The most disturbing element of this comment is your apparent abandonment of your belief in personal responsibility…..at least as far as police officers go. Where is the individual’s responsibility to fulfill his job to the best of his ability when you are conceding his right to say essentially ” I will not do my job because of my fear that I will be called nasty names by those on the left.”  I really don’t want my police to be driven by this kind of cowardly “victim mentality” as you are prone to say. I want  police officers who are willing to do the right thing and do their sworn job even if there may be some bad publicity. For the majority of the police who are brave and honorable, they can just choose not to take it personally if they know it doesn’t apply to them. And if accusations of excessive force do apply to them, then need to rethink their mission and their strategy and do their job in an appropriate manner. This is the heart of individual responsibility, doing the right thing even when it is not easy.Do we want less than this behavior in those we give the right to detain, arrest, and yes, even kill us if they deem it necessary ?

    1. Frankly

      As usual you are arguing one point while trying to hold on to the other point.  Do you have a problem with committment?

      Either this or you are incapable of understanding the situation…

      1. Dispatch gets a high percentage of calls from the neighborhood.

      2. Because their job is to serve and protect, the police dispatch patrol cars into those neighborhoods to investigate and observe and respond to crime and suspicion of criminal intent in order to serve and protect the residents of the neighborhood.

      3. And because those neighborhoods have both a higher incidence of crime and higher incidence of behavior that causes suspicion of criminal intent, those patrols end up having a higher incidence of encounters.

      4. And because those neighborhoods have a higher pecentage of black residents, blacks are over-represented in the number of encounters with suspects.

      5. And with a higher ratio of encounters in a neighborhood with high crimes, there is a greater probability that suspects will be shot by police.

      The Black Lives Matter movement along with the demands from social justice liberals is for police to do what?  Ignore their training?  Ignore the law? Ignore their suspicions?  Go in unarmed?  Put themselves at greater risk in these neighborhoods that are as violent as are some war-torn Mideastern neighbohoods?  Sorry, not an option.

      The ONLY reasonable response by law enforcement to these demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice liberals is to reduce the number of patrols in those neighborhoods.  To patrol these neighborhoods just as they do the other much less violent neighborhoods with a smaller percentage of blacks.  This is in fact what has been demanded by many.  And law enforcement has complied.

      And now social justice liberals are painted into a position corner as crime rates skyrocket in many of these neighborhoods.  And is typical for social justice liberals who fear being made to admit they were wrong more than they fear death itself, they are working hard to deflect, deny,  and blame others instead of taking responsibility for the damage caused by their tirades and demands.

      1. Don Shor

        The ONLY reasonable response by law enforcement to these demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice liberals is to reduce the number of patrols in those neighborhoods.

        Actually, there’s a lot that urban police departments can do to reduce tension between police and the residents. Here’s an example of programs and policies that have been developed over many years. http://www.justice.gov/archive/crs/pubs/principlesofgoodpolicingfinal092003.htm
        Note the date of this publication.

        1. Don Shor

          having supported this absurd view that demanding police reduce their presence in these neighborhoods will result in a decrease in crime…..
          The ONLY reasonable response by law enforcement to these demands of the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice liberals is to reduce the number of patrols in those neighborhoods.

          Here’s what the Black Lives Matter movement is actually demanding: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-lives-matter-policy-demands_55d7392ae4b0a40aa3aa9443

      2. Davis Progressive

        “And now social justice liberals are painted into a position corner as crime rates skyrocket in many of these neighborhoods. And is typical for social justice liberals who fear being made to admit they were wrong more than they fear death itself, they are working hard to deflect, deny,  and blame others instead of taking responsibility for the damage caused by their tirades and demands.’

        really?  i don’t see anyone painted into a position corner on this.  moreover, i’d rather do what’s right than worry about politics.

  6. Biddlin

    Frankly, do you think this, ”  ramped -up left political and media criticism of law enforcement.” is just “ginned up?”  I suspect if the cops killed fewer people and solved more problems than they create, the media would be indifferent. When you kill 10 times as many people as any other first world country’s police force, they’re gonna talk. Privatization makes the cops really accountable to their employers, a   classic plea from fiscal conservatives, no? If you are pissed about firefighters making a little more retirement than you think they are due, you really ought to look at the waste in any municipal pd in the USA. Too many bosses, too many early disability retirees, terrible vehicle and equipment costs , due in large part to abuse and poor maintenance, corrupt purchasing agents all issues more efficiently dealt with by private businesses, no?

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