Boston’s Davis to Journalists: Don’t Overemphasize Crime Stats

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Running community policing programs well is more important than bringing crime statistics down, says Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis. Speaking to a national journalism convention yesterday in Boston, Davis said that while reducing crime numbers is important, “what matters is how the public feels about” police department efforts. He said, for example, that police flooding an area where drug sales are rife will produce high arrest numbers. He added, “That’s not the solution to the problem, and it can increase the public distrust of the police.” He urged journalists not to take a “myopic view” of crime statistics that can prompt “crazy” policing methods that will not lead to long-term crime reduction.

Davis spoke on a panel sponsored by Criminal Justice Journalists at the national convention of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Earlier, Brian Haas of The Tennessean talked about his stories on police officials who declared crimes “cleared” on the ground that witnesses would not cooperate. Ben Poston of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described his ongoing series on Milwaukee police employees who have downgraded reports of crimes so they are not included in the city’s violent crime rate. Criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University criticized media reporting that exaggerates the significance of one-year changes in crime rates that may amount to no more than random fluctuations. Taking a longer view of statistics gives the public a better perspective on actual crime trends, he argued.

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