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April 18, 2017

Lies, damned lies, and competing crime statistics from AG Sessions and the Brennan Center

My news feed today brought me to two notable pieces that emphasized modern crime realities in two notably different ways:

The scary crime story comes via this USA Today op-ed authored by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which begins with this sharp sentence: "Violent crime is surging in American cities."  AG Sessions goes on to say this about current crime realities with a piece focused mostly on policing practices:

In Chicago, arrests have fallen 36% since 2014 to the lowest level in at least 16 years.  Last year, they fell in every major crime category, and they fell in every single district in the city.  To put that in perspective, out of more than 500 non-fatal shootings in early 2016, only seven resulted in any sort of arrest.  That’s 1%. Not surprisingly, as arrest rates plummeted in those years, the murder rate nearly doubled. Meanwhile in Baltimore, while arrests have fallen 45% in the past two years, homicides have risen 78%, and shootings have more than doubled.

Yet amid this plague of violence, too much focus has been placed on a small number of police who are bad actors rather than on criminals.  And too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe....  When proactive policing declines and violent crime rises, minority communities get hit the hardest.  We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals. Every neighborhood needs to be safe and peaceful.

Our first priority must be to save lives, restore public safety, and bring back the community policing that we know works.  To help achieve those goals, the department, with the help of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, will focus our efforts on thwarting violent crime, drug trafficking, and gun crime and gang violence.  If combating violent crime and restoring public safety are seen as dramatic reversals, then I fully support such a sea change.

The much more encouraging crime story comes via this new Brennan Center analysis of "Crime Trends: 1990-2016," which is promoted with this reassuring first phrase: "Crime rates have dropped dramatically and remain near historic lows." The Brennan Center analysis goes on to provide these "key findings" of modern crime realities in its executive summary:

Crime has dropped precipitously in the last quarter-century. While crime may fall in some years and rise in others, annual variations are not indicative of long-term trends. While murder rates have increased in some cities, this report finds no evidence that the hard-won public safety gains of the last two and a half decades are being reversed....

The violent crime rate also peaked in 1991 at 716 violent crimes per 100,000, and now stands at 366, about half that rate. However, the violent crime rate, like rates of murder and overall crime, has risen and fallen during this time.  For example, violent crime registered small increases in 2005 and 2006, and then resumed its downward trend.  In 2015, violent crime increased by 2.9 percent nationally and by 2.0 percent in the nation’s 30 largest cities. Preliminary data for 2016 also show a greater increase in the national violent crime rate, up 6.3 percent, and a smaller jump in the 30 largest cities, 2.4 percent. Crime is often driven by local factors, so rates in cities may differ from national averages.

From 1991 to 2016, the murder rate fell by roughly half, from 9.8 killings per 100,000 to 5.3. The murder rate rose last year by an estimated 7.8 percent. With violence at historic lows, modest increases in the murder rate may appear large in percentage terms. Similarly, murder rates in the 30 largest cities increased by 13.2 percent in 2015 and an estimated 14 percent in 2016. These increases were highly concentrated. More than half of the 2015 urban increase (51.8 percent) was caused by just three cities, Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. And Chicago alone was responsible for 43.7 percent of the rise in urban murders in 2016....

The data demonstrate that crime rates and trends vary widely from city to city. In New York, for example, crime remains at all-time lows. Other cities, such as Washington, D.C., have seen murder rise and then fall recently, yet the rate is still lower than it was a decade ago. However, there are a small group of cities, such as Chicago, where murder remains persistently high, even by historical standards.

April 18, 2017 at 06:14 PM | Permalink


Sorry. I have yet been banned again from Facebook. I dismiss Sessions.

Brennan Center is misleading. Millions of computer crimes, more lucrative than robberies. Intentional trashing of police reports to keep the crime rates falsely low.

Murder rates have dropped because of trauma care advances from our wars.

The Brennan Center is a left wing propaganda outlet designed to increase government employment for the members of the Democratic Party. It is totally biased. It receives $millions from George Soros.

I demand the names and home addresses of the Brennan Center major contributors, of its policy makers, and of its administrators. That information would be used to seize the houses of their immediate neighbors, under Kelo. Then, a dozen released convicts should be placed in each, without any zoning variance.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 18, 2017 10:37:07 PM

You are going to be asked to leave here, David, if you continue to use every post as an excuse to engage in your tired rants against the left and lawyers.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 19, 2017 9:59:58 AM

He's back on Facebook apparently, so his "one ban somewhere" rotation can go on here.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 19, 2017 10:32:00 AM

Doug. Do you have any idea how tired the entire nation is of your lawyer profession? It is in utter failure in every self stated goal of every specialty.

Try rebutting me sometime. You are above that, but you are not really above that. Like most lawyers, you like the way things are. You have zero understanding of what I am talking about. Zero. You lawyers are doing quite well. So why discuss your fundamental problems? No one else is doing well in this country, not even the rich.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 19, 2017 9:07:26 PM

Joe. All weasels must tell the class the fraction of their income from government.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 19, 2017 9:44:11 PM

David, the last election arguably reflected disaffinity for the Clinton brand of lawyer. And, for the record, I think there are plenty of problems in the country that lawyers contribute to in various ways. But this blog is NOT a blog about lawyers and their incomes and place in society. It is a blog about the criminal justice system and sentencing law, policies and practices.

Even when you try to stay on-point, you too often return to rants about "weasels" and "left wing propaganda" and "enrichment by rent seeking" and "impeaching judges" and "regulatory quackery" and "ivy indoctrinated morons" and "lawyer morons" and "criminal cult enterprise." Because you often log the first comment in each thread and because so many have long grown tired of your rants, many report to me in many ways that you harmfully pollute this comment space.

Because I so dislike censorship, I am deeply disinclined to ban you. But I hope you can understand how postings like your first and last in this thread are not really appreciated or useful.

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 19, 2017 10:50:19 PM

Doug. You are so great. You optimistically believe that people can change, and not end up as chronic recidivists. I have tried to change, but always relapse back into old patterns of speech. Imagine trying to change a serial killer. I am facing the Blog Comment death penalty, and still cannot change.

I can change views when contradicted by facts. I suggest the people in this blog do advocacy for a living. They should be able to handle a civilian. Try lobbing a fact my way.

For example, I, myself, found a study showing higher lead blood levels in prisoners. That linked the secular correlations of Rick Nevin, and crime at the ground level. I immediately came to support his theory, and stopped opposing it.

A fact can shut me up, better than the weak deterrence of the Blog Comment death penalty.

In fairness to me, I have made many defense arguments, which have gone unappreciated.

Sentencing is the lawyer remedy to crime. It cannot be separated from the motivations of its jurisprudence. Thus one must address the personal motivations of the lawyers.

Here is a suggestion to improve the blog. I understand, it is the editorial page of the newspaper,and not the article section. However, anyone using the title, Professor, implies a certain expectation of professionalism. Its main ethos is to educate, not to advocate. That means offering teaching from both sides of a question. This blog is 99% left wing, and 99% pro-criminal, without your awareness. It would become more respected, and more useful to both sides if 20% of the posts were pro-victim interest, substantial interest to not be victimized, that the phony Victim Impact Movement. That balance would make rigorous rebuttal less necessary. I could then better focus on legal issues, and less on policy issues.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 20, 2017 1:14:15 AM

Doug. What if lawyer failure were a stronger factor in crime than bastardy or lead blood levels? What if the profession Robles resulted in a 10% prosecution Rate? Would lawyer loving criticism become more relevant here?

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 20, 2017 11:51:58 AM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB