DPD Says Crime in Dallas Took Yet Another Big Drop. So, Are People Getting Better?

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
A very long time ago when I was a young police reporter, I asked a grizzled homicide cop why he thought someone had slashed the young woman lying dead before us into one big bowl of Frito pie. He thought about it, put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Kid, people who do shit like that don't think right."

Dissatisfied, I said, "Yeah, but what would prevent something this horrible from ever happening again?"

He gave more thought to that one. Sucked on a smoke, nodded solemnly and looked at me sidelong to show respect for my question. Finally he said, "Well, I think people need to act better."

I remembered this today while I pondered the news that, to everyone's astonishment in these pre-apocalyptic-feeling times, crime has fallen in Dallas for the eighth straight year, mirroring a strong national trend, with murders in Dallas falling to their lowest number since 1967, when the city's population was 70 percent of what it is today.

These numbers strongly contradict the narrative that we're a powder-snorting, vein-injecting, drunken-driving society of pedophile rapists headed straight to hell in a rocket ship. The numbers say we're straightening up and flying, if not right, righter.

Crimefor2011.jpg
Dallas PD's stats as presented to the council's Public Safety Committee on Monday
I have written here before about Travis Hirschi (University of Arizona) and Michael Gottfredson (University of California-Irvine), authors of a groundbreaking book in 1990 called A General Theory of Crime. In the build-up to their big theory, the authors amassed overwhelming evidence from research carried out over 20 years to show that most of our thinking about causes of crime is just bullshit.

The root cause is not poverty. It's not education, class, race, scary movies, intimate exposure to Newt Gingrich's personal life, any of that stuff. All of those have been thoroughly tested and debunked as universal root causes of crime.

What the evidence shows is that people of all classes and social subgroups enter the world with pretty much the same predisposition toward or against criminality.

Then things happen. There are big differences, for example, in what happens to people when they get caught the first few times. The Hispanic gang kid gets sent to juvie. The rich white kid gets sent to Wyoming. But the initial tendency to commit those first acts of crime is the same on all groups.

Crime is not a career choice, like, "Wow, print journalism isn't working out for me too well anymore. I think I'll do home invasions." There is something else in it.

Gottfredson and Hirschi said the root is "self-control" or the lack of it. If you have self-control, you'll earn that big flat-screen television the hard way, by becoming a print journalist. If you don't have self-control, you'll grab that television set off the shelf at Best Buy and run as fast as you can.

Since their book came out, a lot of other scholars have accused them of tautology. At first I was very shocked. I thought, "Damnation, how did these people ever get to be professors in the first place if people knew they were tautologists?" Then I realized I didn't really know it meant.

Looked it up. It's repeating the same statement as an explanation of itself. As in, daily newspaper circulation is declining because fewer people are taking the paper. Or, crime numbers are falling because fewer crimes are being committed. Or, the root cause of crime is the inability of people to stop themselves from committing crimes.

Yeah. I see that. I never thought the self-control thing was the interesting part of their book. I was fascinated by all of the sociological factors they said were not the causes of crime, mainly because I was a print journalist, and print journalism has never strayed from a narrative that insists sociology is the answer, no matter what the research shows.

You see it today. Especially when crime falls during tough economic times like these, somebody writes a story saying the decline is surprising or mysterious, given the hard times. But surprising and mysterious to whom? Print journalists? Because it doesn't surprise or mystify criminologists one bit.

I decided at some point that Gottfredson and Hirschi, exponents of the great Positivist Movement in sociology by which everything must be proven scientifically, brought themselves up against a certain fence, gazed into the next field of evidence and spied a land where they feared, as positivists, to tread.

Morality. Crime is moral behavior -- well, immoral. But it's about morality. And morality doesn't come from or respond to sociology. It is the parent, not the child of sociology. So that's why they gave up and started committing tautology.

I look at today's headlines, recall the words of that old Detroit homicide detective, and I wonder: What if we're actually getting better? And if we are, why can't we see it? Why do we seem not to want to see it? Or is that just me? Am I the one in need of change?

Fine with me. I'll survive. I'm thinking about that home invasion thing. That's actually a related field.

My Voice Nation Help
45 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends. 

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

My neighborhood must be the exception -- lots of residential burglaries, car thefts, car break-ins, personal assaults - NW Dallas.  I don't think we've had any murders or rapes, but that's about the only area where the numbers are down.

Fred
Fred

From recent headlines it would appear that the crime has moved to Collin County.

Ed D.
Ed D.

Uh, no. This recent report by CQ Press ranked Allen as the 9th safest city in the country and the safest in Texas.

"The study uses statistical data from the FBI to rank the crime levels of more than 400 cities with 75,000 or more residents. The rankings are calculated using per-capita offense rates for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft."

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

So, crime is a result of the lack of self-control? That would explain why societies tend to have exterior agents of control, otherwise known as police. It would also indicate that the individual is ultimately responsible for his or her criminality. Novel concepts all. As for the possibility that "we're actually getting better," you can easily test that theory by leaving your car running and unlocked while you shop at your local convenience store. The older I get, the smarter my father looks. He, however, was not the first to say that locks are there to keep honest people honest.

ToddM
ToddM

I'd be curious to see if the drop in Dallas corresponded with an increase in the suburbs.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Plano was named the safest city in America for 2011 by Forbes.

dallasmay
dallasmay

Not likely. The crime drop in Dallas is mirrored by cities nationwide. Personally, I think the credit goes to video games, cable tv, and the internet. Thugs can afford to stay home and be entertained, so there is no need for them to have to be creative. 

Chicken E
Chicken E

One idiot in Iran with a nuclear bomb can make up the difference of all the other 'good' people pretty quickly.

scottindallas
scottindallas

even more pernicious are lies told about others to dehumanize them.  Iran has no nuclear weapons program.  The US intelligence agencies are clear on this.  Only in Congress, among neo-cons and warmongers do these lies get repeated.  We are a heavily propagandized people.  Just as we were before the Iraq war.  Ron Paul is right in what he's said re: Iran, the others repeating the tropes of AIPAC.

Hey, all you need to do is listen to their remedy, "bomb them to death to liberate them."  There ain't much good in that reasoning.  Furthermore, the more we press Iran, the more we rally the people around the regime.  The reformists in Iran don't want our help, for we aren't trustworthy, what with our history of overthrowing their elected gov't years ago, and our repeating of that sin in scores of other countries over the decades. 

Further, we lost control or influence over Iranian trade.   Iran is China's largest oil supplier, and we're making their oil cheaper and cheaper.  We haven't isolated Iran, we've created a fault line in the world, that excludes us.  And, that line is moving to isolate us further.   Our policies and belligerence have only worked against our best interests, and only strengthened China's hand. 

You can keep being led by your knee-jerk pathos, or think about things a bit.  Put yourself in the shoes of our enemies, and their subjects--that's what Jesus challenged us to do.  How can the policies you cling to be more failed?

Albert
Albert

Scott, are you aware that Canada, the European Union and the UN are also targeting Iran for their nuke ambitions?

The Chines, Russians and you seem to be on the same page in regards to Iran.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Just today, the EU announces they are gonna stall the sanctions for 6 months. 

scottindallas
scottindallas

I don't Iran has peaceful intentions--though we should admit that WE HAVE NO EVIDENCE OF A MILITARIZED NUKE PROGRAM--but the Soviets had literally thousands of nukes, yet wee Iran is the threat?  The Ayatollahs of Iran aren't suicidal, if they used their one or two nukes, Iran would be vaporized.  Iran hasn't invaded or attacked a country in centuries.

I don't assume that Iran had no hand in weapons entering Iraq and Afghanistan; though again, we need some perspective.  What were those weapons?  Gravel?  Slingshots?  Small rifles and landmines?  None of our enemies in either country have anything like large weaponry.  We should perhaps thank them for their restraint.  Would WE have been so restrained?  What if China or the Russians invaded Mexico or Canada?  Think we might funnel some guns?  In fact, we funneled rocket launchers and anti air launchers to IRAN's neighbor--clear across the globe from us.  But, Iran dare exercise some influence in a neighboring country, they're the terrorist?  Who's gov't is assassinating scientist, their wives and children in the streets? 

Are you paying attention?  Did you see today how Europe is punting on the sanctions?  Our influence is waning from the lies, and propaganda.  I know you'll be hard to influence.  I don't wear rose colored glasses regarding Iran, I follow the facts.  I followed the facts prior to Iraq, and knew that case was pack of lies before the invasion.  Cause the people on the ground, working for us, were declaring they weren't seeing anything.  This is a carbon copy replay, and it stinks to the whole world, and about half of America. 

Israel is not capable of attacking Iran without our active aid and support.  We've already shipped them bunker buster bombs for this possibility.  We only lost influence and wealth from attacking Iraq.  We're losing oil contracts to Russia and China there.  The same is happening in Afghanistan.  So, what do we gain from these very expensive war games?

Albert
Albert

Ok, Scott, let's assume Iran has peaceful intentions and the US is lying and demonizing them.

Let's also assume the US is lying about the weaponry and aid used to kill Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Let's assume that Israel is rogue and dangerous to the region and Zionist operatives dictate US and US patsy policy and propaganda.

Apparently, the Russians are now AIPAC patsies:

"Moscow regrets Tehran's decision to enrich uranium near the city of Qom, Itar-Tass state-run news agency quoted a foreign ministry official as saying on Tuesday."

Quesyion: If the rogue Zionist nation of Israel attacks the Iranian facilities, should we in turn bomb Israel?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Albert the South Koreans and others are seeking exemptions.  You're a sucker for propaganda.  Furthermore, the Saudis already have nukes, or, they have the absolute leverage for them.  You DO know there is ONE rogue nation with hundreds of Nukes, that refuses inspections and refuses to acknowledge their nuclear program.  The Iranians support a nuke free Middle East, as do the Saudis, but there's ONE country that refuses to discuss this.  You should stop listening so exclusively to that rogue nation's patsies.

"There are plenty of examples of good articles laying out the case against war with Iran. Some demonstrate that, while Boot prefers bombing, the multi-lateral U.N. nuclear sanctions shepherded by the Obama administration have actually slowed Iran’s progress. Some give realistic assessments of just what the (limited) benefits of a strike would be. Others give sobering assessments of potential fallout from such a strike. Just yesterday, Dr. Adam B. Lowther, a faculty member at the Air Force’s Air University, wrote a long article against bombing.

But what was most stunning about Boot’s conclusion was that the Foreign Affairs piece in question faced such harsh criticism from a well-known international relations scholar that Kroenig felt the need to respond. Harvard scholar Steven Walt wrote on his blog at Foreign Policy magazine’s website that Kroenig’s piece was “remarkably poor piece of advocacy,” and from there picked it apart for maximizing benefits of a strike and minimizing negative consequences. The devastating critique apparently compelled Kroenig to respond on Foreign Policy, followed by a less-than-satisfied rejoinder from Walt. (Others have weighed in on the spat, too.)

How did Boot miss this exchange over the very article he’s hyping in a top-tier magazine covering his very subject area? Boot’s claim raises the possibility that he willfully ignores counter arguments. But his parenthetical interjection — “have I missed it?” — suggests either he’s incapable of using Google or his reading list simply doesn’t cast a net wide enough to catch articles that don’t fit his ideological predispositions." www.lobelog.com

Albert
Albert

That's bullshit, Michael.

Everyone knows if Iran nukes up, the Saudis will, and others.

Michael in LH
Michael in LH

Canada, the EU and other countries that are targeting Iran are doing it to keep from running afoul of US sanctions for countries that do not support the party line.

Jshaw
Jshaw

Take a look at the graph, and ask the simple question... What happened in 2004? Answer: Lupe Valdez was elected sheriff. Crime has gone down ever since,,,

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Agree to a point: Crime isn't about sociology, it's about morality. But morality doesn't grow in a vacuum. it's taught, encouraged, cultivated. It reflects general values. It's relatively harder, though not impossible, to behave morally in a society that rewards immorality.Steven Pinker's new book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature," argues that over the history of the race, violence has declined. I'm not entirely convinced-- butchery is not the only form of violence -- but it does seem that the notion that certain things are immoral per se -- genocide, slavery, oppression -- goes hand-in-hand with the spread of civilization, in the narrow sense of that word. (In the broad sense, we've seen that even enlightened "civilized" societies can practice immorality on a spectacular scale.)None of this has anything to do with the drop in the crime rate, which is a transient phenomenon. In the end, the crime rate will fall only when crime -- all kinds of crime, whether committed by investment bankers or or rapists -- is no longer tolerated, excused, or winked at.    

Ken325
Ken325

I think that the increase in concealed carry and gun ownership is making crime more dangerous for the criminal.  Cell phones and security systems also help.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

While I am a supporter of concealed carry, I doubt that it is the cause of the reduction in crime. The number of people who hold a CHL is to low of a percentage for it to have had a significant impact. 

I personally believe it is the aging of the population. As a rule, as people get older they tend to obey the law more.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

but for every aging criminal who actually gets straight, he has spawn running around ready to be the next teen criminal. 

Citizen Kim
Citizen Kim

That makes a lot of sense.  You may have hit the nail on the head.

Guest
Guest

Do you think that having over three times as many people in prison as we had in 1990 might have played a role in continually dropping crime rates now?

J. Erik Jonsson.
J. Erik Jonsson.

JS, I may be telling you something you already know, but the work of Radley Balko on criminal justice, police militarization, and the War of Drugs is really insightful.  He cites prosecutorial discretion as an important factor in shaping how we treat crime and the overall crime rate.  Strangely (to me anyway) the Right actually seems to be rethinking punishment and crime prevention issues.  The TPPF's Right on Crime program has signed up some really unexpected (again, to me) names in support of reevaluating incarceration as our society's response to certain crimes and even decriminalizing some behavior.  Would you ever have thought Ed Meese would be on board with that?

In Dallas, we seem to have bought into a theory of policing that calls for more police to prevent crime.  3 per thousand seems to be a mantra.  Ft. Worth has managed better crime numbers than Dallas with far fewer officers per thousand residents.  Maybe we should figure out why.

zaner
zaner

>>"Looked [tautology] it up. It's repeating the same statement as an explanation of itself. As in, daily newspaper circulation is declining because fewer people are taking the paper. Or, crime numbers are falling because fewer crimes are being committed. Or, the root cause of crime is the inability of people to stop themselves from committing crimes."<<

Nope, those are example of "begging the question."  (Didn't we just go over this?)

"Begging the question" and "tautology" are related logical fallacies, but they are different.  The difference depends on truth value.

As contrasted with your examples above, a tautology is a statement that MUST BE TRUE, often presented as if it contains information, but actually containing no helpful information at all.  For example:

"Either the sun will rise tomorrow morning, or it won't." 

Tautology is often encountered in sports interviews, as in:

"The key to winning today's game, I believe, will be to get out there and score more points than the other team before the clock expires."  Duh.  Tautology.

Whereas in cases of "begging the question," as you set forth above, the truth value of the statement(s) being presented is unknown, possibly unknowable, and at the very least up for argument.  No one knows for sure what the real root cause of crime is, but we do know for a fact that the sun will either rise or not rise tomorrow morning.

JimS
JimS

I don't know whose definition of tautology you are invoking, but it is not the definition in English language usage, which is the repetition of a word, phrase, idea or statement as its own reason or cause. Metallurgists and chiropracters may have different uses of the word, but I'm going to stick with the OED.

IMHO
IMHO

You are using the rhetorical sense of tautology ... the critics of the study you cited were probably using the propositional/logic sense of the term. And the two are different.

scottindallas
scottindallas

I think you're arguing semantics, classic case of equivocation.  Of course both of those are cases of tautological reasoning, of course my pointing this out is an appeal to authority and an ad hominem attack.  A fallacious act/argument might well violate more than one rule, there are many roads to Rome.

hehehehehehe, I love logic talk....

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

OK, no crime reports on shoplifting under $50.  A guy caught in the act of kicking one of my neighbor's back door in was charged with criminal mischief, not burglary or attempted burglary.  The guy waiting for him in the driveway in the car was charged with nothing.  Just because reported crime is going down, doesn't mean there is less crime.

RTGolden
RTGolden

On the other hand, people may be worried about their own mothers turning them in.

dallasmay
dallasmay

People aren't better, they are better entertained. I personally think that the continuous fall in crime can be largely credited to video games, TV, and the internet. Kids just aren't bored anymore. They have plenty of cheap entertainment available and that keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. 

So, that's at least one good thing to come from this. I just hope we don't totally sacrifice community in the process. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

really, TV has been around for decades, atari came out in the 70s, nintendo in the 80's, and entertainment certainly isnt cheaper than it was 20 yrs ago. 

Ed D.
Ed D.

Now they have smartphones so they can be anywhere watching shows or playing games or whatever to stave off momentary boredom. Before, you had to be home to enjoy all that technology. Even if just one person in ten decides "Angry Birds" is more fun than "smashing a windshield with a brick" you've just dropped vandalism 10%.

Paul
Paul

Best check to see of the reporting standards have changed.  For example is the shoplifting of an item with a value less than $50 still a crime?  What about the people who don't report a crime because they are so disgusted with the standard police response of "Here is your report number for your insurance claim."

Aleo
Aleo

I don't think the standards for reporting rape and murder have changed. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

ahh, but If I recall mr shutze had an article about how the way assualts are accounted for have changed, not quite sure what it was so ill have to go research, but I believe they changed the definitions of aggravated assault and such

Phelps
Phelps

Part of it is that technology is making it harder to be a successful criminal.  Even when crime is up, it's a relatively small portion of the population, and now, a large portion of that small group gets locked up more.  Between "Find My Phone" and laptops that call back, Lojack, alarm systems on cars, houses, businesses, and the cherry on top, ubiquitous, digital video... life's hard on a crook now.

Michael in LH
Michael in LH

Technology certainly helps in getting criminals off the street faster. When the cops are able to catch the burglar after only one or two jobs due to a video, that criminal won't be committing 100 more burglaries.

dallasmay
dallasmay

I think technology has a part in it, but it's not what you think. A thug with a crowbar and a screwdriver driver doesn't care about your car alarm. He knows no one thinks twice about a car alarm going off. On the other hand, he has an XBox 360 at his apartment with games to play, so why go outside at all. He's got plenty to entertainment at home, no need to be creative for fun.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...