Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Murder Rates and Media

After posting on the drop in crime during the Great Depression 2.0, I dug into some numbers. These numbers are from 2005, but they tell a story of declining crime rates. Wide variety of reasons, but we must all love the dramatic drop in the murder rate (from nearly 10 per 100K in the early 90s to mid 5s now). More murder stats here, here and clearance rates here. I have read about the 'abortion-less crime' correlation before in Freakonomics, and I do think that is a factor. The factor I like to highlight is the improved sentencing guidelines. Whether it is 3 strikes and you're out or the Fed 85% rule (must serve 85% of time no matter what), keeping people who have already committed one crime (or 3) off the streets should have some preventative power. Maybe rapists serving a life sentence instead of 5 years will not commit anymore rapes. Call me crazy but that might work.

Looking at the stats, I do see that blacks suffer from murder disproportionate to their population %. At nearly half of all murder victims, that far outstrips the 12% of the total population they are. What would scare me is that the clearance rate (closing a case) for murders is 62%. If I were Al Sharpton, I'd be all over police forces and the community I represent to improve these numbers sot hat black families can have justice and possibly some closure. I won't hold my breath.

I bet most people don't feel safer than they did 20 years ago. This runs directly opposite of the facts, but I bet people feel less safe when out or when their kids are out. I blame the Laci Peterson effect. Back in the day, a murder had to be big time to make national news. Nowadays, any dead white chick is on the cable news channels. It's always a shocking death. You would think after the tenth shocking death that year that they reported on, it might move down a notch to unsettling or disturbing. My grandparents told me stories of the only murders they knew of growing up and they can be counted on one hand, a few locals, the Lindbergh baby and the Black Dahlia. I bet the averag Joe could run a laundry list of cases. It's news now, even if it really isn't. MSNBC, CNN and FoxNews as well as your local news station all cover every splashy murder. Is that really news? Do we need to see coverage of a body found, the arrest, the lead suspect, the trial? I would say oversaturation of coverage prejudices a jury. I understand airing a sketch and description to help the cops, but why the excess? It probably gets ratings. That is all that matters.

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