The Outstater

January 4, 2024

Crime Numbers Deciphered

INDIANAPOLIS MEDIA tells us that crime has suddenly taken a downward turn there. This is announced just as crime is recognized as the top local election issue of 2024. The media doesn’t see a link between the two bits of information but we don’t believe in coincidences here, or at least not political ones.

Two causes come to mind: 1) Officials, reacting to public pressure, have improved their crime-fighting tactics; or 2) officials, reacting to public pressure, have redefined “crime” more favorably.

Human nature being what it is, the latter is to be suspected. That said, the work of Jeffrey Anderson, former director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice, should be of interest. He has reason to doubt today’s crime reporting.

“Violent crime rates rose dramatically in urban areas from 2019 to 2022, and we have no clear indication yet whether they have risen or fallen since,” Anderson writes in the current City Journal. He warns that crime reporting in the cities (including crime not reported to police) has become unreliable.

“The media may want to believe that our cities have become safe again overnight, but the most reliable statistics, as well as Americans’ daily experiences, say otherwise,” Anderson concludes. He thinks urban mayors fudge the numbers. His arguments:

In sum, based only on preliminary and partial-year numbers with more than a quarter of agencies missing, the Indianapolis Star and other mainline media are willing to declare the crime problem solved.

Fortunately, you don’t have to take their word for it. Go stand at Massachusetts Avenue and East 34th Street in Indianapolis around 2 a.m. and tell us if you feel safer than last year.

To me, this uncertainty about crime is the core issue, not the reported numbers at any point in time. People no longer trust their officials to either tell them the truth or protect their interests. Our preferred chance of getting shot being zero, we are not particularly assuaged by a percentile shift in a homicide report.

Does it need to be said that trust is the most important factor in governing? When it fails, the community fails, and in myriad ways, top to bottom and bottom to top. If there is anyone left on the 25th floor of the City-County Building who cares about their city, they should be concerned about that above all — above welfare payments, above neighborhood grants, above root causes, above diversity, equity and inclusion, above re-election.

And there is no better or faster way to restore that trust than to honestly and effectively address the issue of public safety. It scares me that nobody up there sees that. —tcl


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