At LaGuardia Community College, Visiting Fulbright Scholar Steven Gilbers discusses African-American English through the comparison of East Coast and West Coast hip-hop. In a classroom filled with students and professors, Mr. Gilbers proceeds to break down hip-hop culture and the importance of authenticity in the hip-hop community. “Another crucial part of hip-hop culture is this […]
The “Ferguson effect” has become the latest source of fear fueling the war on crime. The crux of the argument is that protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, and New York City have led to a decrease in broken windows policing. This lack of on the ground police enforcement for quality of life crimes is said to have had a negative impact on the rates of violent crimes.
Conservative pundits and law enforcement officials are scared that the country is in the grips of a crime wave the likes of which haven’t seen in thirty years. In a 2015 speech to the University of Chicago Law School the director of the FBI said: “I fear we are facing another wave of violent crime and homicide… In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns… Lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a strong police presence and actual, honest-to- goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at one o’clock in the morning?’”
Is the country facing a new rise in violent crimes? Are cities like New York going to be plunged back into being the lawless wastelands they were in the 1970’s or are out of context statistics creating an atmosphere of fear. Were the deaths of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos the first in a series of growing violence against police officers in the wake of protests or were their deaths the act of a violent madman?
Where are we today, almost one year after the death of Michael Brown? Is the city that never sleeps under siege by murderers and criminals? According to the NYPD’s latest published Comparative Statistics for 2016, the percentage change in the number of murders is -9.2 percent. The rise in murder rates seen in 2015 did not precipitate a coming crime wave, but were rather a blip on the radar taken out of context. The total crime rate in 2016 has risen 0.3 percent but has changed -4.78 percent in a two year period, -2.34 percent in a six year period, and -77.15 percent in a 23 year period. A 0.3 percent rise in crime is hardly the harbinger of a coming crime wave.
In 2015 there were reports of rises in violent crimes in many cities across the nation. These statistics however were usually presented in a vacuum, with the only factor recognized being the time of anti- police protests. According to a report by the Brennan Center for Social Justice, “These stories have been based on a patchwork of data, typically from a very small sample of cities.”
The underlying issues and events of communities were not being taken into account with these statistics. The dramatic rise in murder rates came from cities with populations low enough to cause dramatic percentage increases, however murder rates are not the universal litmus test for determining a coming crime wave.
The overall crime rate in 2015 dropped 1.5 percent keeping in line with the overall decrease in crime over the past 25 years. In New York City there were a total of 333 murders in 2014 and projected total murders of 357 for 2015. There was a 7.2 percent increase in the murder rate, in terms of overall crime rate per 100,000, in New York City the 2014 crime rate was 2,113 and the overall projected crime rate for 2015 was 2,079, which was a change of -1.6 percent.
In basic terms of statistical analysis, the Ferguson effect in cities such as New York and Saint Louis are examples of skewed presentation of data. But what about the city that gives the Ferguson Effect its name? According to The Sentencing Project report, while the murder rate in Ferguson did rise after the August death of Michael Brown it was still low compared to the murder rate for April of that year.
Statistics, when taken out of context, can be skewed to cobble the narrative of a rising crime wave.
Is the fear of being filmed fueling an across the board lack of policing, or was fear mongering and media panic to blame for the perceived rise in crime? Skewed statistical analysis is the germ that spreads fear. By taking a tiny piece of data and an agenda a crooked narrative can be written.