More broadcast journalism

Baker, John M. JMB at STRADLEY.COM
Sun May 2 02:49:23 UTC 2010

Although Dave Wilton's point is important, the claim is misleading in a more fundamental way.  Anyone hearing that Arizona now has a crime rate equal to or greater than that of New York City might presume that this means that Arizona's crime rate is on the increase.  As shown at this chart at, however, that is not the case.  Arizona's crime rate in 2008 (the latest year for which final statistics are available) was the lowest since 1966 (or since 1971 if only violent crimes are considered).  If Arizona's crime rate has surpassed New York City's, it is only because the New York rate has dropped even more dramatically.
When I see information presented in such a misleading way, I can't help but think that it was intentional.  Somebody had to look at the statistics for both Arizona and New York City and come up with a way of telling us something that they knew would create a false impression.
John Baker


From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Dave Wilton
Sent: Sat 5/1/2010 9:54 AM
Subject: Re: More broadcast journalism

Plus it's comparing a state with a city. Arizona has a population of 6.5
million, NYC 8.3 million. It wouldn't be terribly surprising if total crime
in Arizona was similar to that of NYC. One might expect it to be about 25%
lower, given the somewhat smaller population, but other factors might drive
it up.

Not to mention that NYC's violent crime rate is relatively low. The bad old
days of the 70s and 80s are long gone. This Wikipedia page, which gives 2008
FBI statistics ranks NYC 55th in violent crime and 75th in property crime.
Even Anchorage, Alaska is higher.

But the FBI says this about its crime statistics:

"Each year when 'Crime in the United States' is published, some entities use
reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough
rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a
particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to
simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading
perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid
assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range
of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. *The
data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of
individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or
colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or
student enrollment.*"

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Bill Palmer
Sent: Saturday, May 01, 2010 6:15 AM
Subject: More broadcast journalism

Twice in the past few days (Lou Dobbs this morning + one other time a few
days ago by someone else, but I don't remember who) conservative
commentators have asserted that Arizona now has a crime rate equal to that
of NYC.  That seems unremarkable.  I'm sure there are many places with crime
rates that equal or exceed NYC's...Detroit, Richmond, St, Louis, Atlanta,

It would only be noteworty if there was an equal amount of total crime,
nest-ce pas?

Bill Palmer

The American Dialect Society - <> 

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