Justin Channels Stalin
"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." — Joseph Stalin, aka Koba the Dread
"No, crime statistics are statistics, not facts" — Justin Hauke, aka impressionable young NWA fan
The funny thing about inter-office blog fights is that you argue with coworkers online instead of walking six feet to talk to them. Ain’t technology great? Seriously, I wonder whether Justin would like to tell the family of a murder victim that the crime was just a statistic, not a fact.
Near the beginning of his post, Justin writes:
Dave has probably never been to Compton, Calif. Neither have I, for that matter, and I believe most sensible people haven’t. You can not honestly tell me that St. Louis is a more dangerous place to live, I’m sorry.
Well, Justin, it is true that I have never been to Compton, although I did once go to an NWA concert at the old Arena. As a quick aside, I went to the show back in high school with my buddy Dave G., and everyone before us in line got a full body search and everybody after us in line got a full body search, but we were just waved on through by security. True story, as Krusty would say, although to this day I still can’t figure out what was different about Dave and I in comparison to the rest of the crowd.
But back to Justin’s post. I am not the one substituting my personal impressions gleaned from the entertainment world for crime statistics compiled by law enforcement. One of us is trusting the statistics (which, while some would argue are skewed, nobody is saying they are false) and one of us is writing a blog post while envisioning himself doing an 8-ball with Eazy-E while pumping the radio front and back and side to side, and jockin’ some
bit’ young ladies in suburban Cali.
Justin next writes:
The first problem I have with the data is that St. Louis’ bizarre municipal boundaries make the per-capita crime statistics appear much higher than they otherwise would be.
St. Louis is by no means the only city that can not expand its boundaries. In fact, the majority of cities either can not or do not do that. Some, such as the ones he mentioned in his post, certainly do. But there is a long list of Midwestern and Eastern cities that have not expanded their boundaries in decades. And St. Louis has a higher crime rate than all of them, except Detroit, which sort of plays the role of Mississippi in always placing last (or first) in these types of rankings. As I said in my own post, as long as the crime stats are comparing St. Louis to Kansas City rather than Jackson County, or Atlanta rather than Fulton County — and they are — then our apples are being fairly compared to other, less violent apples.
I have to reprint the next paragraph in full, as Justin truly enters bizarro world:
My second point of contention, though, is that crime at the national level is grossly underreported, particularly within low-income and minority neighborhoods. I imagine that Compton, Calif., gets a much better rating because most of the crime that occurs within its borders never gets reported to the police. I mean, it’s not like the Crips go to the police station every time a Blood robs one of their fellow gang members. In contrast, I imagine that a significant portion of the crime being reported in St. Louis comes from those trepid suburbanites that make the five-mile trek into the city and become easy prey.
Where to begin? I guess at the beginning…
- IF crime at the national level is underreported in low-income and minority areas, then that happens in all of those areas, not just cities like ours trying to spin their crime stats.
- Gang members are not just confined to Compton, you know — there are plenty of them in St. Louis, too. And they are not more or less likely to report their activities depending on what the RCGA would have them do.
- As for "significant" crime reporting in St. Louis coming from suburbanites who become crime victims when they visit the city, at least Justin began that statement with "I imagine," because that idea is just a fairly tale. And even if it were somehow true, does that make the crime less important? Or less reportable?
Justin returns to reality with his summary: "I believe it is unfair to single out the city for idiosyncratic features that should be washed out of any truly unbiased statistical study." As is clear from my own posts, I am far from convinced that the city’s features are indeed idiosyncratic — and a crime is a crime, no matter who reports it or where it comes from. If St. Louis wants a lower crime rate, there are a number of things officials can do — economic growth and education being the only real answers that would be effective in the long run, and putting people in prison being the only real answer in the short run.
But trying to deny that the city has a crime problem, and a serious one at that, doesn’t do anyone any good. And trying to convince people that it’s safe to come downtown, and to the West End and Soulard — while completely true — does not do any good for the citizens who still live in the other parts of the city where violent crime is a normal fact of life.