Halsey Frank: Cherry Picking Crime Statistics

In its December 1 editorial, “Some serious crimes still go unreported“, writes the Press Herald, the recently released crime statistics paint a beautiful picture of Maine. They show that crime in Maine has fallen for the ninth consecutive year and confirms that Maine is one of the safest places from the country.

The document goes on to observe that law enforcement reduced operations in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by a 16% drop in the number of arrests made and summonses issued. In this he finds confirmation of his belief that punishment is ineffective and asserts that limiting the number of people incarcerated has not made Maine any less safe.

When it comes to rape, domestic violence and hate crimes, the Press Herald doubts the numbers. These figures show that rape decreased by 4.9% and VI by 6%. The paper characterizes these numbers as inaccuracies which it attributes to under-reporting.

Of course, statistics in general, and crime statistics in particular, must be considered critically and with common sense. It’s not that the principles at work are complicated that the systems are large, complex, and subject to many countervailing forces, even in Maine. In the case of crime statistics in general, 2020 should be viewed with an added measure of perspective to take into account the effects of the pandemic and mitigation measures.

There is no doubt that law enforcement has reduced operations in an effort to reduce the risk of infection. In addition to the drop in arrests, the 3.6% drop in the clearance rate provides additional confirmation. The question is whether the criminals have reduced their activities. In general, criminals are not responsible. They don’t play by the rules and don’t care about the health and well-being of others.

Statistics regarding rape, domestic violence and hate crimes should be viewed in light of the general understanding that these crimes have historically been underreported. But the recent “me too,” “mass incarceration,” and “BLM” movements may have had an impact and increased willingness to report.

Historically, the homicide rate was considered a control for the tendency to underreport crimes, since homicides are relatively difficult to conceal. While the number of homicides in Maine remained constant at 22, the number of domestic homicides fell 22%, from nine in 2019 to seven in 2020.

On the other hand, rapes had increased by 15% in 2019 before decreasing by 4.9% in 2020. This 20% variation seems abnormal. Support groups may have a better idea of ​​the true incidence of domestic violence, and they say they have seen an increase in the number of victims seeking help. Makes sense. The pandemic has caused people to spend more time cooped up together, increasing the risks and the intensity of tensions.

Hate crimes increased by 436.8%, from 19 in 2019 to 83 in 2020. Yet the paper suggests this is also an undercount. The FBI reports that nationwide, hate crimes increased by 13.36%, from 7,103 in 2019 to 8,052 in 2020. Although it is generally accepted that hate crimes have increased these years, it seems unlikely that Maine has become 33 times more hateful than the country as all of last year.

One perspective to keep in mind with respect to all of the 2020 crime statistics and conclusions drawn from them is that eleven Maine counties’ crime rates have increased while five’s have decreased. In particular, the decrease in Cumberland County, as indicated by the total number of index crimes, overwhelmed the changes in other counties. Index crimes in Cumberland County fell by 1,077, or more than 24%, from 4,455 to 3,378.

This decline explains most of the state’s net decrease from 18,464 to 17,347 crimes, and raises the question of what was going on there. One thing that seems to have happened more often is the gunshots. According to media reports, in Portland between October 2020 and 2021, shots were fired twelve times. It’s more common than I can remember in the last 20 years. That may be because Portland has been the epicenter of the state’s anti-law enforcement movement.

The bottom line is that 2020 is a tough year to fathom.

Even so, the paper is not shy about extending its opposition to traditional law enforcement, from drug-related crime to all crimes. It seems to be based more on his prejudice than on the evidence. In this regard, I note that New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, not to mention the other Portland, seem to be experiencing more violent crime since the implementation of progressive reforms in law enforcement practices. .

I agree that Mainers shouldn’t live in fear. They should feel comfortable in public places, regardless of their race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual identity. They should not hesitate to report when they have been the victim of a crime.

Where I leave society with the newspaper is in my belief that traditional law enforcement is part of how life in Maine should be.