Thursday, August 30, 2007

How To Measure Crime

I took 5 semesters of statistics throughout my academic career, which has caused me great trauma and will probably pay off in the long run for one lucky therapist. But, I have come to realize the value of statistics. It's not the ability to do the formulas, calculate alpha error percentages, or model bell curves--it's the practice of being 'statistically minded'. In other words, when you hear a fact or statistic, it is very valuable to be interested in how the information was calculated and if it indeed is an accurate representation of what you are trying to understand.

For elected officials, knowing the exact nature of a problem is the first step in finding the proper solution. (Think WMD's!) The major issue in the city of Annapolis is the crime, and the elected officials have spent much time--or at least paid much lip service--trying to figure out solutions.

We should take time to ensure we are measuring crime correctly. Just because arrests are going up, doesn't mean crime is getting worse. It could just mean we are getting better at catching the criminals. Similarly, if there are fewer arrests, it doesn't necessarily mean crime is decreasing; it may mean criminals are becoming more elusive.

I suppose the only 'statistic' that ultimately matters is our perception of quality of life. Do we feel safe everywhere in the city? Are we confident drugs are becoming harder to find? Data can be manipulated to say almost anything, and we have to be steadfast in our resolve to continue to fight our problems.

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