Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mark Twain, Crime Rates, And Statistics

[Photo of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens from wikipedia]
In my opinion, Mark Twain had it right when he said about statistics that, "[t]here are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics!" I don't trust crime statistics, either! I thought about Twain's quote when I read online, today, at, that, based upon statistical reports, Columbia County, the county I live in, is one of the safer counties in our State, in contrast to neighboring Augusta, Georgia, which reportedly has one of the highest crime rates!

Now, don't get me wrong! As a former state and federal prosecutor, and as a long-time Columbia County resident, I know fully well that, generally, Columbia County is a much safer place. And our local sheriff does a great job. But my point is that you can't believe statistics alone in drawing any conclusions about which place is safer, because, simply put, statistics are unreliable.

Let me give you an example to prove my point! Let's assume that a sheriff in one county works really hard and makes a large number of arrests one year. Ironically, the increase in arrest statistics will indicate that crime is getting worse in that county, even though the sheriff has actually taken more bad guys off the streets! In other words, the crime rate is up, but more bad guys are behind bars! So, it actually should be safer!

The converse is equally true! A lazy sheriff may make fewer arrests and then falsely claim credit when the crime rate appears, on paper, to go down!

So, when it comes to crime rates and statistics, I agree with Mark Twain! Crime rates and statistical reports are often just a bunch of lies!

What do you think?

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