Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Can Statistics Show DPD How To Better Allocate Its Resources?

Shortly after taking office, new Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans came clean about violent crime statistics in the city. He acknowledged only a few days ago that it had routinely under-reported crime stats for the last several years.

Evans admitted in a recently published newspaper report that many reported crimes, as high as 20%, were not responded to and as a consequence did not generate an official report; those undocumented crimes were not included in the department's official stats. However, the truth may be that no one actually knows with absolute certainty how bad violent crime is in the city of Detroit.

He has already cautioned the general public that they will see a spike in future reported crime stats and that they should not be a reason for alarm. He publicly lamented that if he can put a dent in the true number of crimes being done in the city, no one would notice.

My personal opinion is that being the Police Chief in the Muder Capital under those circumstances is a good gig if you can get it - higher crime stats and an excuse to say to a gullible public that things are getting better without proof.

Evans has pledged to use good statistics - however unsavory - as a guide as to how his manpower should be allocated to address crime in Detroit. For example, one of Evans' first implemented crime-fighting intiatives, effective this past Monday, was to tow the cars of all drivers found to be operating a vehicle with a suspended license.

This move was loudly touted by him in the media as "low-hanging fruit" that will reduce the number of drive-by shootings. He issued no projections but his crime stats are untrustworthy anyway. Evans has apparently looked at some crime stats and found that 30% of drive-by shootings were performed by persons without valid Operator's Licenses.

I will readily concede that I do not have a background in law enforcement, however, I have an excellent background in logic and statistics. Chief Evans'plan defies reason and logic if the goal is to reduce drive-by shootings.

For starters, every person who drives without a valid license is not about to do a drive-by shooting. Many Detroiters don't have a valid license because they have unpaid parking tickets and/or drivers responsibility fees.

Secondly, if a criminal is intent upon doing a drive-by shooting, what's to stop him from stealing a car to do a drive-by shooting? Better yet, what if the would-be killer is among the 70% of drive-by shooters who does have a valid drivers license?

Evans' rationale is that if would-be murderers had to face the prospect of walking home through an unfamiliar neighborhood in this crime-ridden town, he would think twice before killing somebody. By his own admission, crime in this town is "the Wild Wild West." Is DPD also going to illegally seize his cell phone so that the prospective killer won't call someone to pick him up? Why not car-jack someone to get a ride home or a ride to the murder site? Certainly, a determined murderer is not above doing a car-jacking. Evans' goal is noble, yet his plan is lacking common sense.

The funny part of this whole bizarre plan is that DPD doesn't have the jail space to lock up people for the misdemeanor crime of driving without a valid drivers license; it's part of DPD's 'catch-and-release' approach to law enforcement. I take that back. It's not funny at all.

At best, this hair-brained scheme is a revenue generator for a cash strapped town. Look for the city to make some loot off this plan from the least priviledged of its residents by racking up handsome towing and storage fees. It will not have an impact on drive-by shootings. Not even a ripple.

By the way, a drive-by shooting ironically happened last night on the east side. There is a 30% chance that the murderer did not have a drivers license. DPD missed the low-hanging fruit this time. The shooter drove away from the scene and is still at large. For the record, if this plan is characteristic of the type of statistics based crime-fighting Evans has planned for Detroit, we are doomed.

Personally, I believe that stats can give DPD guidance as to how its resources should be allocated. However, I believe that the analysis of credible stats should be done by someone who has clue about how to interpret them. I hope Evans did not do the analysis.

Just a few days ago, while still the city is still awaiting a break in two cases - the east side rapist and the seven kids who got shot at a bus stop - DPD staff were painting graffiti and escorting some stuffed animals to be buried in memorance of Micheal Jackson. I am so not impressed with DPD's allocation of resources right now. Where are those revised stats?
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