Mark Twain said “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” Which brings us to the news reported late last month that New York City was as safe in terms of serious crimes as it has been in modern history. Nevertheless, there are those who complain…
To read some of the recent claims by law enforcement and by politicians, you’d think that we were in the midst of the greatest crime wave in history. Without elaborating on those claims, the pundits then go on to blame specific groups, specific lawmakers, and specific policies for the alleged wholesale destruction of the fabric of America. But hold on just a minute.
Here are a couple of examples of what we’re talking about. FBI Director James Comey is quoted as suggesting that the “Ferguson effect” is somehow contributing to an urban crime wave. And the New York Post (“New York City is about to become a lot more disgusting”) says that the new policy in New York City – reclassifying some minor crimes from criminal offenses to civil offenses – will lead to more crime.
This is just some of what we’ve been hearing. But let’s get back to the premise of these politically and racially charged accusations. While it is true that some crimes have been up in the first few months of 2016, crime in New York City, for example, dropped last month. And a look at the bigger picture reveals that the trend is down, way down. In fact, here are the numbers according to the Division of Criminal Justice:
- For the seven “major crimes” (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglar, larceny and motor vehicle theft), the number dropped by over 5% last year compared with 2014, and has dropped by more than 18% over the last decade.
- Violent crime as a whole was down by almost 11% since 2006.
- The major crimes and violent crime numbers were each down in New York City by over 20% in the past decade.
- In the last 10 years, the state also saw a significant drop in robbery (down by 30.8%), burglary (down by 36.2%), larceny (down by 13.1%), and motor vehicle theft (down by 52%).
The only wrinkle in the downward trend involves rape. But because the FBI has significantly changed (expanded) its definition of the offense for statistical purposes, the increase is in all likelihood not meaningful.
All in all, what we’re seeing, stripped of the emotional appeals of some onlookers, is that the purported “crime wave” simply does not exist.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016