Crime=not up. Stop making things up!

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12/21/2009
There's not much I dislike more than anecdotal evidence being extrapolated to general conclusions. The latest example of this was a very poorly researched article from Security World News. Here's the gist:
Stickups and burglaries are not only isolated to just banks or convenience stores, but are becoming increasingly common for businesses of all kinds. In Houston, about 30 people have been recently robbed while working within their place of business. Karina Monita is one of them. "It was really scary…I was shaking," Monita told the Wall Street Journal. The expectant mother was held at gunpoint by two men who entered the office and robbed the place, getting away with about $500 and a cell phone. (Not much, but perhaps enough for a thief in these trying times.) Many of the crimes nationwide have involved small companies with ground-level offices that offer easy access. Security experts think that perhaps the thieves are desperate because residential residents have beefed up their own home security. Therefore, they are turning corporate.
So, a bunch of theorizing and anecdotal evidence is supposed to support the theory of the headline: "Business Burglaries and Stickups are on the Rise." When they do supply statistics, they in no way support their argument:
As the Wall Street Journal reports, while the total number of robberies in general decreased slightly in 2008 from 2007 (according to the FBI), there was an estimated 10.1% increase from 2004. In 2008, there were an estimated 2.2 million burglaries (an increase of 3.6% when compared with 2004 data). Meanwhile, during the third quarter of 2009, Crisis Care Network Inc. provided crisis counselors to employees at 206 workplaces (including offices and retail stores) following incidents of armed robbery, up from 185 during the same period in 2008.
So, crime is going down - but it's still higher than it was five years ago, when crime was historically low! I'm pretty sure "on the rise" means: "moving in an upward direction," not, "going down, but still higher than an arbitrary time in the past." However, it's not just the people at Security World News who've been sucked into this meme that crime must be going up because the economy is bad. This armchair theorizing is pretty common. (And I'm going to get to this in a bit (you know where I'm going), but, hello, CRIME IS GOING DOWN, even in a period of historically bad economy and job loss, like, say, the first half of 2009.) There was good old Officer Carroll, from a few months back. There was Dependable Security Systems in June, saying business was up because crime was up. And maybe there was an increase in crime in that little corner of Georgia, but probably not. Probably the media just started reporting on it more because it made sense that crime would be worse in a bad economy. Here's Insite Security telling me, "It’s certainly true that the types of crimes that the wealthy are victimized by increase in times of economic downturn,” before actually attributing the company's growth to the AV revolution that's expanded the acceptance of low-voltage-based security systems. And that's just what I pulled out of our soon-to-be-destroyed, and really-quite-crappy search engine in five minutes. Here's the New York Times with a terribly researched article on supposed rising crime, with one statistic from one city where crime went up, and absolutely no other supporting data for their anecdotal evidence. But it sure made sense. I could quickly find dozens of similar articles, and so can you if you google "rising crime" right now. Go ahead and do it now, if you'd like. But here (and I'll link again) is the reality:
Number of agencies Population Violent crime Murder Forcible rape Robbery Aggravated assault Property crime Burglary Larceny-theft Motor vehicle theft Arson
11,728 244,233,379 -4.4 -10.0 -3.3 -6.5 -3.2 -6.1 -2.5 -5.3 -18.7 -8.2

Notice how every single type of crime is down for the first half of 2009 (also, you like that sweet table I learned how to make?)? And that's with 11,728 agencies reporting and representing nearly 250,000,000 people. Do you think the police departments in the good neighborhoods are the only ones reporting? But I know what you're thinking: Some regions of the country have been hit harder by the recession and those are the regions where crime is up. National statistics are meaningless you moron. God I hate the press. So stupid! Well, except:

RegionViolent crimeMurderForcible rapeRobberyAggravated assaultProperty crimeBurglaryLarceny-theftMotor vehicle theftArson
Total-4.4-10.0-3.3-6.5-3.2-6.1-2.5-5.3-18.7-8.2
Northeast-3.2-13.7-6.1-6.0-0.8-7.0-8.2-5.3-19.3-9.2
Midwest-3.4-7.6-7.5-3.7-2.6-8.4-4.6-7.8-21.4-8.5
South-6.1-7.8-0.9-9.0-5.1-4.3+0.7-4.1-17.8-7.5
West-3.3-13.3-1.4-5.2-2.2-6.7-3.6-5.0-18.2-8.2

So, down in the south, where Georgia is, it's true they might have been hit with some crazy crime. Burglary up by .7 percent! Batten down the hatches! Save the women and children first! Does this mean I don't think alarm systems are necessary and in demand? Of course not. The alarm industry has the same value proposition it always did. Crime happens, it has always happened, and it will continue to happen. But it does no one any good to make up a bunch of garbage about how crime is rising and now is a better time than any to get an alarm system. Crime is not going up. It's falling. That may change. Maybe the economy isn't bad enough yet to affect crime in the ways that all the smarty-pants said it would. But as of now, judging by the worst first half many people have seen in a very long time, crime is not rising. Until I see statistics otherwise, I will not believe any tales or rising crime, and neither should you be spreading such tales.

Comments

[...] speculating about how this could be, especially during a time of reported hardship. (Check out Sam’s blog for his take on this report.) Here’s some of our [...]

I was told there would be no math.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sam_Pfeifle, Security Feeds - RA. Security Feeds - RA said: SSN: Crime=not up. Stop making things up! http://bit.ly/8XnKkZ [...]

LOL. So, would you say the overall, underlying trend is up or down?

Lies, damn lies and statistics ;-)