Tuesday, July 03, 2007

There Was No Downtick

Part of the reason I started keeping track of media reports of murders in New Orleans was because I saw varying numbers of how many people were murdered. And, when the numbers didn’t vary, the explanations for them did. So, I wanted my own information to make my own conclusions.

I have posted my numbers throughout the year on this blog. It appears I missed two, possibly three murders.

The T-P says this murder was the number 100. I had it as 97. I went back and found a murder I missed, as well as a hit and run fatality that I did not include, though I should have because that is a murder. New Orleans Citizen Crime Watch had both.

I can not find a third murder that I missed. It is probably out there, or the T-P may be including a murder that the coroner concluded happened in 2006, but the victim was found in 2007. I count it in the 2006 stats. The NOPD has counted it both ways, as a 2007 murder and a 2006 murder.

Either way, whether a third uncounted murder exists or not, my numbers in this post for the 2nd quarter of 2007 are wrong. At least 2 should be added to the total.

This means, unfortunately, there was no downtick:
Jul-Aug-Sep 2006 – 53 murders
Oct-Nov-Dec 2006 – 52 murders
Jan-Feb-Mar 2007 – 48 murders
Apr-May-Jun 2007 – 49 murders (possibly one more)
I would also like to highlight some great keeping-it-in-perspective comments made by MAD in the previous post:
With the metropolitan population now at 91% of the pre-K level, use of the 260,000 Orleans Parish population estimates to calculate Orleans murder rates creates a statistical anomaly. While any murder is one too many, of course, we are not really a far more violent city than we were before the storm, as the raw data otherwise suggests. The high murder rate in N.O. murder is in part a function of the artificial setting of narrow parish boundaries, a constraint that many other cities do not share. Draw the parish boundaries for Orleans around Central City, and you will see rates that rival Baghdad, while the rest of Orleans magically becomes "safer".
I agree.

I responded by saying the point of my post is not to judge the relative safety of any given person in New Orleans, but rather to point out that “statistic anomaly” and use it to judge the effectiveness of the New Orleans criminal justice system. They know where the “Baghdads” of New Orleans are, yet are either powerless, incompetent, or uncaring enough to stop the murders there.

MAD made another good point to keep in mind while comparing New Orleans to other cities:
The problem is with publications like the TP boldly declaring to the country that we are once again the "murder capital". We all know what that does to our ability to successfuly rebuild. I am not at all suggesting that we gloss over our problems with violent crime, but if per capita comparative analyses is the standard for informing public perception as to which cities are safe and which are not, then let's compare apples and apples. If 100,000 or so Orleans Parish residents still reside in the area and continue to interact with the city for job and other purposes, but now live just outside of the parish boundaries, then let's factor that into the determination as to the city's per capita murder rate.
Utilization of per capita measurements is valid only if all cities are measured by the same or comparable objective standards, but random and arbitrary political boundary determinations make that difficult and wholly unreliable. A better approach would be to compare murder rates among the nation's SMSAs.
I would still say that the murder rate for New Orleans lets us judge the effectiveness of the New Orleans criminal justice system. For murder rates, the parish boundaries are in no way artificial. Something is going on in New Orleans that is not happening in Jefferson, which is right next door and for a long time had two times the population after the storm.

But the local murder rate does not give an accurate assessment of the safety of the region.


LisaPal said...

It's always occurred to me that looking at the number of murders alone isn't really telling the whole story when the difference between a murder and an attempted murder may be nothing more than a matter of bad aim, a quick EMT response or some other such factor. The guys who shot a man in the neck while he sat in his car down street from my house intended to kill him. (It was a real surprise to all of us in the neighborhood that he survived.) When it comes to this kind of violent crime, I think the intention matters more than the actual outcome. I wonder what the numbers look like when all the failed attempts are also counted. (And I do recognize that this approach is impractical when the appropriate historical data nay not be readily available. It's just a thought.)

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