Tag Archives: crime rate

Let’s Talk About Crime Rates

I don’t watch much television, and when I do watch, it’s generally via streaming, so I’ve been spared a lot of the mindless political ads that are driving everyone nuts as the midterms approach.

However, I do watch the news on “live” TV, and I have been utterly appalled by a couple of ads slamming our incumbent Prosecutor (who was depicted, in time-honored “dirty politics” fashion, in a dark, grainy and menacing photo that barely resembled him.)

The ads I saw blamed the prosecutor for the fact that one murderer possessed a gun, and another for the fact that a “bad guy” was on the street (presumably after serving the term for which he’d been imprisoned.)

The angry voice-overs didn’t blame–or even mention– Indiana’s idiot legislators, who specify the punishments available to prosecutors and have worked assiduously to ensure that every Hoosier malcontent will have immediate access to lethal firepower. And it didn’t blame police for failing to intervene before the fatal incidents (perhaps using ESP, a la “Minority Report”?).

Nope. All the prosecutor’s fault.

Evidently, the Republican challenger running for the office–whose lack of any criminal justice experience is abundantly clear–wants voters to believe that an elected prosecutor should be spending staff time and resources bringing long-shot lawsuits against the thousands of unhinged people who own guns in Indianapolis.

(By the way, I can just hear those “Second Amendment” purists if a Prosecutor did try to use Indiana’s unwieldy version of a “red flag” statute to confiscate some of that firepower. )

I assume the local Republican candidate’s effort to frighten citizens–“you are in danger because your prosecutor isn’t trying to confiscate weapons from suspicious scary people!!”–is part of the GOP’s nationwide effort to focus on crime and blame that crime on Democratic officeholders. I’m told that Fox “News” runs grainy “look at how dangerous big cities are” footage 24/7.

I would say that coverage is misleading, but it’s actually a lot worse than misleading, because it is based on an outright lie about where crime rates are high and where they aren’t.

According to national figures, these are the ten states where crime rates are worst:

New Mexico – 6,462.03 per 100,000 people
Louisiana – 6,408.22 per 100,000 people
Colorado – 6,090.76 per 100,000 people
South Carolina – 5,972.84 per 100,000 people
Arkansas – 5,898.75 per 100,000 people
Oklahoma – 5,869.82 per 100,000 people
Washington – 5,758.57 per 100,000 people
Tennessee – 5,658.30 per 100,000 people
Oregon – 5,609.89 per 100,000 people
Missouri – 5,604.78 per 100,000 people

Perhaps you noticed something about that list: it’s mostly Red States. (The four states with the lowest crime rates are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey.) 

Chris Hayes recently addressed the GOP’s dishonest framing of crime, and where that crime occurs, with a really brilliant parody of a Fox “ad”–using the deep-red state of Oklahoma, where Republicans rule and the two largest cities have Republican mayors, as his focus. I encourage you to click through and watch it, but if you don’t have time, I’ll give you the punch line: Oklahoma has a much higher crime rate than either California or New York.

As Hayes quite properly noted, the cities and states in Red America–where crime rates are higher than in our much-maligned Blue cities–haven’t been “defunding” the police, or releasing convicted felons, or doing any of the other nefarious, pro-crime things that–according to Fox  and dishonest political ads– are causing crime to spike. 

Which brings me back to the Indianapolis Prosecutor’s race and my consistent pre-occupation with civic literacy. The person who created that deeply stupid ad clearly assumes that no one watching it has a clue what the actual job description of a Prosecutor is,  what the proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion looks like– or how much of a county prosecutor’s job depends on competent policing and the workability of laws passed by legislators.  

There are all kinds of criticisms that can be fairly leveled at county prosecutors: the merits of the plea bargains they negotiate, the deployment of their necessarily limited resources, the professionalism of the staff, the obvious ambitions of the incumbent…(in the past, Indianapolis has had some real “hot dogs” in that office, spending most of their time in political pandering and running to the media to spin every court decision. Like Todd Rokita at the state level.)

In my humble opinion, the incumbent Marion County Prosecutor–Ryan Mears–is a very good lawyer and a quality person who has been doing an excellent job. He has been very transparent about his priorities (which don’t include focusing on low-level marijuana use or violations of Indiana’s new, draconian abortion ban), and I thoroughly agree with those priorities. Others are free to disagree, and that sort of disagreement is entirely legitimate.

Judging by the ads being run by his challenger, I guess legitimate criticisms weren’t available.