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Author: TriSec    Date: 09/29/2007 13:13:16

Good Morning!

We're a wee bit sluggish here in the TriSec compound....last night was our first Pack meeting of the season, and your loyal TriSec is the Cubmaster this year. Javi has finally joined as an "official" cub scout, and I even got Mrs. TriSec to step up to the plate as a Tiger Coach.

If you're in the Boston area over the next ten days, take a drive up route 1 and check out the Topsfield Fair! It's the oldest agricultural fair in America, and has been going on since 1818. We try to go every year...it is a great day of animals, midway rides, games, and of course, healthy carnival food!!

Speaking of Boston...did you hear that the sox clinched the east for the first time since 1995? They remain tied with those Indians for best record in baseball with two to play...so there is still something to root for this last weekend. And have you been watching the National League? The Cubs and Diamondbacks got in last night....but there is still plenty of action left for the Phils, Mets, and San Diego yet.

So, on to the meat of the day. There is an interesting story from Strike The Root this morning about the
"clearance rates" for serious crimes. 50 years ago, nearly 90% of all murders were solved. Today, that figure is only about 60%. So that means that 40% of killers today literally get away with murder.

The national "clearance rate" for serious crimes in 2006 - i.e., the percentage of reported crimes solved, by police according to the new Uniform Crime Report - seems awfully low to me:

* Nationwide in 2006, 44.3 percent of violent crimes and 15.8 percent of property crimes were cleared by arrest or exceptional means.
* Of the violent crimes (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), murder had the highest percentage of offenses cleared at 60.7 percent.
* Of the property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft), larceny-theft had the highest percentage of offenses cleared at 17.4 percent.
* Eighteen percent of arson offenses were cleared by arrest or exceptional means.

It is no wonder many in the public do not feel safe if 55% of violent crimes and 84% of property crimes go unsolved! If 82% of arson victims never see the offender held accountable, sure, I would be unhappy, too. The 60.7% clearance rate for homicides is especially troubling - that means 39.3% of killers literally get away with murder!

Politicians routinely point to UCR crime statistics to argue for longer and more punitive criminal sentences. But to me these numbers imply a different solution: Greater resources and focus on solving crimes and catching criminals in the first place.

If the national clearance rate for burglary is only 12.6% (and in the single digits in some Texas cities), then punishing the few burglars who are caught more harshly makes only a small dent in crime. A better strategy would be to put more investigative resources into solving a great percentage of burglaries.

When punishment is uncertain or even unikely, the economic model of crime (where punishments are considered the "price" of criminal conduct) break down - there is a "free rider problem," to use the economists jargon, because most offenders do not actually pay the "price," i.e, the legislatively established punishment. That is a big reason the death penalty provides little deterrent. The sentence is imposed on less than 2% of convicted murderers, but nearly 40% of the time a killer will never face punishment at all.

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor last year, New York corrections official Scott Christianson pointed out that 50 years ago, clearance rates for murder hovered around 90%. Indeed, one of the odd ironies in the last years has been that overall crime has declined, but clearance rates also declined over the same period. In other words, though fewer crimes are committed, police solve a smaller percentage of them. Christianson blamed the drug war for diverting police focus:

It is not that American cops haven not been making arrests - in fact, their total annual arrests jumped from 3.3 million in the nation in 1960 to 14 million in 2004, a staggering number that helps to explain why the United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world.

So, if reported crime has been going down and arrests have gone up, what accounts for the plummeting arrest clearance rates for murder, robbery, rape, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft?

Part of the answer must involve drug law enforcement - victimless offenses that aren not reported to the police or included as FBI Index Crimes. Instead of arresting suspects for burglaries and other serious reported crimes, cops today spend much of their energy going after illegal drugs. Their arrest rate for drug possession (especially marijuana) has shot up more than 500 times from what it was in 1965.

Bolstering that claim, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws crunched this years UCR numbers to determine that more marijuana arrests were made in 2006 than any previous year, 829,625. Each of those arrests took officers off the street for about 2 hours, on average, to process offenders, mostly for minor possession cases. After they are arrested, they enter overstuffed local jails that already can not find room for more serious offenders.

And because we can, I have a picture today from the website Daily Encouragement, an online ministry in Lancaster County, PA that is run by a fairly skilled amateur photographer...


Everyone enjoy your weekend!

6 comments (Latest Comment: 10/01/2007 02:10:31 by Mondobubba)
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