Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Crime Statistics: How Reliable Are They?

According to Benjamin Disraeli's famous quote: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." Nowhere is this more true than with crime rate statistics. For example, each year, the F.B.I. issues its Uniform Crime Reports, which is a compilation of crime statistics for certain serious crimes which are compiled by the F.B.I. based upon submissions from law enforcement agencies around the country. These reports may serve as a decent barometer. But, in my opinion, these annual reports are flawed. Or at least they don't give us a complete picture about crime. Here are a couple of reasons why:

1. There have been a number of reports about various state and local law enforcement agencies around the country which have submitted inaccurate information to the F.B.I. about crime stats in their jurisdictions. But there is another more fundamental reason why you shouldn't trust crime rate statistics:

2. Let's assume you are a sheriff who is running for re-election. In order to get re-elected, you might direct your investigators to make fewer street level drug arrests during the months leading up to the election. Then, you could (falsely) claim that you have "cleaned up Dodge City" because the crime statistics (and number of drug arrests) are down. On the other hand, if you have worked hard to make more drug cases, and the number of arrests have gone up, then, ironically, the crime statistics might make it (incorrectly) appear that a new sheriff is needed to deal with the growing drug problem! Don't you see my point? Do you agree?

So, in my opinion, while Disraeli may not have been absolutely correct about statistics, he was pretty close. We should at least take crime rate statistics with a grain of salt. Of course, I'll bet there's one crime statistic about which we can all agree: that is, that the crime rate is always "going up!"


  1. In can definitely see your point here.I agree with you. Many people rely only on the data they receive from the autorities , but, just as you said,their relevance depends on the accuracy with which they reflect reality. Just like in many other coutries, mine included,those who want to gain the elections know how to manipulate the results in their favour. The problem is, dear friend, how many see this? It's far more better to just accept what you're given than to actually filter the information you get.Don't get brainwashed, my fellow readers!!!
    Ps. thanks for the review you posted on blogspot. I 'm thrilled you like my work:)

  2. Thank you for your wise observations and continued success with your excellent writing!