pageok
pageok
pageok
Now That's An Ambitious Campaign Plank:

The New York Times reports:

"We'll start by setting a bold goal," Clinton said at a YMCA community center in the tough neighborhood of West Philadelphia. "We'll start by focusing on cities with high homicide rates and we will cut those rates in half."

The Times paraphrases the plan this way: "The centerpiece of Clinton's proposal is a goal of halving homicide rates in cities. It includes adding 100,000 new police recruits, targeting gang violence and disrupting drug markets, and a federal initiative to tackle illegal gun trafficking."

Huh -- halving homicide rates over five years, even in "cities with high homicide rates," seems a pretty challenging task, and rather beyond what can be plausibly planned for, even as a "bold goal" (much as I would love to see such a goal reached). But perhaps I'm mistaken; I'd love to hear more from people who know about such things.

Tony Tutins (mail):
Most homicides in cities are related to illegal drug trafficking, so HRC should take the profit out of it by making drugs legal.
4.12.2008 1:51am
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Well, setting goals high, even unrealistically high, is seldom a horrible idea. While the metaphor about shooting for the stars at least insuring that you hit the sky misses a certain tendency for rocket explosions and similar disasters, it does have a certain degree of truth.

I think it's possible, although the methods I'd consider most likely to accomplish it (extreme sentences for most felonies, pervasive police presence, heavily encourage lawful gun ownership) might not be socially or economically acceptable.

I'm more concerned about her claimed methods. In addition to my default distrust of any plans which hinge on fighting the 'illegal gun trade' -- let's remember, after all, that quite workable guns and bombs can be made with the materials in an average Ace or Home Depot, and the difficulty in any large-scale anti-smuggling operation -- given today's acts by Nutter she could be seen as supporting some illegal statutes. In addition, while gangs and drugs and the illegal gun trade tend to show a link with homicide, that doesn't make said link causative, only correlative.

For short-term actions on this sort of stuff, you really have to confront and deal with the criminals, rather than the 'underlying causes'. Whether or not those 'underlying causes' are more problematic or a better solution, they're just too slow to directly affect things. You can't get a state-wide systemic change in less than a year; you're not going to dent in an arms trade that moves on a yearly level within five.
4.12.2008 1:54am
pADDy:
Didn't Clinton I try this 100K new cops thing? The feds paid for the first year of the new officers and then the municipalities were left holding the bag? Maybe I'm remembering something else.
4.12.2008 1:58am
Jim at FSU (mail):
What is she going to do? Threaten to withhold federal funding from the murderers until they cut back?

You would think that if the solution to lowering the murder rate were simple or easy to implement via legislative or executive fiat that someone would have done it already.
4.12.2008 2:21am
Paul B:
Professor Volokh,

Halving the murder rate is not as hard as you think. In fact, New York City went from 2200 murders in 1990 to 600 currently.
Whether it could be brought down another 50% is another matter.

Instead of suggesting that the federal government fund the salaries of 100,000 police officers, maybe Senator Clinton should pledge to appoint Rudy Guiliani as Attorney General!
4.12.2008 2:21am
Gilbert (mail):
It may be unrealistic, but I am heartened to see a candidate finally propose to tackle the gang problem. If she can get past the rhetoric on crime control there are good ways to attack gangs with community initiatives and by providing alternatives, things I imagine she could stomach more than a John McCain could. If this turns out to be a cornerstone of her campaign, and not just a throwaway, it would change my mind about her a little bit.
4.12.2008 2:22am
CrazyTrain (mail):
Reminds me of this other Clinton who said he would halve the federal deficit in five years and the wise Republicans told us that he was dreaming. Rush Limbaugh even offered to bet 1 million bucks that the deficit would be higher at the end of the five years. The Republicans sure were right about that!!!!
4.12.2008 2:53am
K Parker (mail):
pADDy, your memory is actually quite good.

Gilbert, what exactly does the President have to do with controlling local crime via addressing gangs? Shouldn't the the Mayors and Governers already be doing those things?
4.12.2008 3:42am
LyleP (mail):
I wonder what Barack Obama did to lower the murder rate in Chicago? Perhaps this is way of setting up Obama to look like a failure, if in fact, murder rates in Chicago didn't go down during his time as an activist and politician there.
4.12.2008 3:49am
Gaius Marius:
So does this also mean that Bill Clinton is advocating reducing the number of abortions by half?
4.12.2008 7:08am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Tony beat me to it. But let me ask:

Is Clinton going to legalize drugs or prop up dealers profits with more police?
4.12.2008 7:50am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Did murder rate decline at the end of alcohol prohibition?

Some one give me a clue.
4.12.2008 7:53am
PersonFromPorlock:
Halving the murder rate is really quite simple; you just change the reporting criteria and voila! The only tricky bit is shamelessly insisting that the 'new' rate is real but any politician can do that.

More to the point, what's the Constitutional authority for this? (I know, a quibble....)
4.12.2008 8:11am
Alan P (mail):

Did murder rate decline at the end of alcohol prohibition?

Some one give me a clue.




Actually, it appears yes

http://www.jrsa.org/programs/Historical.pdf
4.12.2008 8:58am
stunned:
I'm with some of the other commentators who aren't sure what the fuss is. Aren't implausible goals kind of a mainstay of politics, particularly presidential politics?

E.g., from the 2007 State of the Union Address: "Tonight, President Bush Will Ask Congress And America's Scientists, Farmers, Industry Leaders, And Entrepreneurs To Join Him In Pursuing The Goal Of Reducing U.S. Gasoline Usage By 20 Percent In The Next Ten Years -- Twenty In Ten."

I don't really need to make the case that this is implausible, do I? To be clear, I'm not suggesting that it's infeasible.

Though we shouldn't let that goal distract us from the related one announced in the 2006 SoTU: "Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

(And to head off the most obvious knee-jerk response: I'm not bashing Bush on this. He's the president right now. It's easy to find stuff he's just promised.)
4.12.2008 9:05am
Uthaw:
Aren't implausible goals kind of a mainstay of politics, particularly presidential politics?

That big plan for social security reform... haven't heard much about that lately...
4.12.2008 9:58am
Bender (mail):
100,000 new cops? Does anyone here have a sense of deja vu? Does anyone remember Bill Clinton's COPS program? Hint: it had as its goal putting 100,000 new police on the streets. And no, even though it went way over its originally projected budget, it neither increased police recruitment over past trend lines nor reduced crime. Federal spending of several hundred millions of dollars had no statistically discernible impact on either growth in numbers of police nor decrease in crime rates. Hill is not only slavishly parroting Bill, but she is doing so with a policy that, based on prior experience, would be a demonstrably costly and wasteful boondoggle. If she wants to repeat ALL the past mistakes of her husband, why doesn't she start by planning to have a fling with a young aide? It would save this country's taxpayers a lot of money.
4.12.2008 10:56am
byomtov (mail):
Recent history suggests that high murder rates can in fact be brought down dramatically, so what's the big deal here?

I mean, it's not like she promised to increase revenues by cutting taxes, or something else that truly merits this kind of scorn. But I guess Republicans enjoy poetic license here.
4.12.2008 11:05am
John Neff:
The COPS program did increase the number of officers, misdemeanor arrests and traffic citation but there was no noticeable increase in felony arrests. Then COPS funding was cut and when officers left or retired they were not replaced.

It takes awhile for an officer to gain the experience they need to be good at their job and that means you have to have a reliable source of funds to pay for police because it is a long term commitment. Federal funding is not reliable and as a consequence the police in my area use federal funds for equipment and training not for personnel.
4.12.2008 11:22am
Bender (mail):
John Neff: I suspect that you are basing your analysis of COPS on the Urban Institute evaluation that was done around 2000. I used some data from that report and ran some of my own numbers to come to a different conclusion about the impact of COPS on numbers of officers. I did a simple ARIMA analysis on national numbers of police with COPS funding as an intervention variable and found no COPS effect. I don't disagree with anything else in your post.

My personal feeling is that federal funding of local policing involves the following process: (1) Federal taxation removes money from local control; (2) federal mandates return the money with requirements for spending that usually are not particularly well-suited for local conditions. COPS was a program that worked this way. The main difference was that COPS gave the appearance of a more open granting process. The result was often that police agencies would apply for funding for wasteful and unnecessary or even absurd items, e.g., a canine drug-sniffing unit in rural South Dakota.
4.12.2008 11:42am
Apodaca:
maybe Senator Clinton should pledge to appoint Rudy Guiliani [sic] as Attorney General!
The old pro-choice Rudy, or the more recent equivocating edition?

Certain economists might argue that only one of them would have any effect (and then only if he had a time-travel machine).
4.12.2008 11:45am
Doc W (mail):
byomtov writes: "Recent history suggests that high murder rates can in fact be brought down dramatically, so what's the big deal here."

YO: The fact that murder rates decreased does not mean they "were brought down"--at least not by government action. When crime is increasing, politicians blame others and promise to "do something." When crime is decreasing, they try to take credit. It's a game, for the most part.

Also from byomtov: "I guess Republicans enjoy poetic license here."

Don't be so sure. I for one am an equal-opportunity basher. Where's Baby-Bush's "humble foreign policy" and "fiscal responsibility?" Daddy Bush lied about "no new taxes."

To CrazyTrain (1:53 am): Gridlock is what was responsible for fiscal restraint and balanced budgets in the 90s. Clinton was indeed dreaming, until he got that little splash of cold water in '94, and then he and the Republicans couldn't agree on how to spend the money. Gridlock is the best we can hope for coming out of the next election, too.
4.12.2008 12:02pm
John Neff:
I am aware of situations were the police were able to obtain a temporary reduction in crime rate for a specific neighborhood by increasing their presence, The criminals responded by relocating to another neighborhood. If you incapacitate the criminals by putting them in jail or prison the temporary reduction in crime may last a little longer unless the criminals are expendable and are immediately replaced as in the case of drug trafficking.

Bender;
I was commenting on data from counties in my judicial district where I was able to talk to local LE agencies. Not all of them used COPS money to hire additional officers because they did not think the funding would be reliable (and they were right).
4.12.2008 12:54pm
dearieme:
What business is this of a federal politician?
4.12.2008 1:08pm
byomtov (mail):
The fact that murder rates decreased does not mean they "were brought down"--at least not by government action.

It's all an accident, you mean. Crime rates are random and have nothing to with police practices and other government policies? Or maybe the free market brought them down.

I think you should acquaint yourself with at least one or two facts on this topic.
4.12.2008 1:20pm
Bender (mail):
John Neff: I apologize for assuming you were considering the national impact of COPS. I'm glad that your local LE agencies were able to make good use of the COPS funding. I still generally (not invariably) oppose federal funding/mandates for local law enforcement on philosophical and empirical grounds. Thanks for a reasoned dialogue. I'm going to just be an observer for the rest of this thread.
4.12.2008 1:21pm
Paul Milligan (mail) (www):
I have to think that the Dems aren't satisfied with the way they've managed to screw themselves out of the White House in Novevmber, in what MIGHT have been a landslide for them !

Now, just to ice the cake, BOTH candidates are coming out with anti-gun rhetoric !!!

Thanks all Dogs for Hillary ! Without her, the Republicans would have been screwed, blued, and tattooed in November !
4.12.2008 1:26pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
"We'll start by setting a bold goal," Clinton said at a YMCA community center in the tough neighborhood of West Philadelphia. "We'll start by focusing on cities with high homicide rates and we will cut those rates in half."


I'm betting that someone from her campaign gave her a report on the effects of the graying of Americans and crime rates (the older the population gets, the less likely they are to commit violent crime) and she's planning to take credit for something that might have happened naturally.

Either that or she's planning to move more people into the cities and by doubling the population (by adding people from lower-risk groups), cut the rate of violent crime in half.
4.12.2008 1:45pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Why would anybody believe anything Hillary has to say? She and Bill were just big mouthpieces for Americans With Disabilitis Act enforcement during Bill's Presidency, but when it came to enforcement against State Courts, all Foo Foo Dust and no action. Disability rights enforcement tends to undermine Hillary's Helen Ready "I am invincible, I am woman, hear me roar" gendeer equality mantle. And her universal health care plan ... just look at the Massachusetts plan going bust because it was all fantasy no one could afford to pay for. And anyone who want McCain is voting for more economic ruination because paying for the war mongering in Iraq is devastating our domestic economy...subprime mortgage and student loan meltdown anyone? And just wait until all those credit swaps meltdown, the ones no one knows much about because they don't keep them on the books.

Vote Obama, and we can start to get this Country back on track and make some sense of a healthy economy and restore international confidence in Americans.
4.12.2008 1:47pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
corr: "gendeer equality mantle" = gender equality mantle
4.12.2008 1:48pm
JKB:
"Halving the murder rate is really quite simple; you just change the reporting criteria and voila! The only tricky bit is shamelessly insisting that the 'new' rate is real but any politician can do that."

She can call on the FED to help her with this. Look at what they did with inflation. They cut it by more than half with simple exclusions such as the prices of food and fuel.
4.12.2008 2:05pm
Doc W (mail):
Byomtov, you may rest assured that I have some aquaintance with relevant information. Crime rates have ebbed and flowed in decades-long waves. Politicians may indeed have had something to do with some of it--as in their prosecution of the war on drugs, which provides an incentive for criminal gangs to fight over drug-selling turf. But just because things change does not mean that the politicians were responsible. My impression is that age demographics are a significant factor in crime rates, for example.

Anyway, the idea that Hillary has a viable plan to reduce crime is a joke.
4.12.2008 2:45pm
Jimmy S:
It's not hard at all to half homocide rates over five years. Increase it to 100% in year 1, and then years 2, 3, 4, and 5 will all be 0%.
4.12.2008 3:58pm
Jimmy S:
Oops. That should be "homicide".

"Homocide", I think, would be something entirely different.
4.12.2008 3:58pm
Paul Milligan (mail) (www):
Mary Katherine - "Vote Obama, and we can start to get this Country back on track and make some sense of a healthy economy and restore international confidence in Americans.'

Does that include all us bitter gun-nut religious-freak racist xenophobic rural types, or just you big city liberals ?

The man is a farce, a bad joke, a hallucination of the small group who are pineing for the 60's. Totally unprepared and unqualified, a racist, with sympathies towards the Black Power / black separatist movement, who blames whites for all evils, the man will NEVER live in the White House.

He has no substance, only a very thin smoke, and some flawed mirrors, and the general election will bring that to light.

Then he will retreat back to his homeland and base - the black community of Chicago, and learn to accept his fate.
4.12.2008 4:24pm
Henry Schaffer (mail):
gattsuru mentions how easily firearms can be manufactured at home. Here's a book with detailed information:

HOMEMADE GUNS AND HOMEMADE AMMO
by Ronald B. Brown
1986 Pub. Loompanics Unlimited, PO Box 1197,
Port Townsend, WA 98386
ISBN 0-915179-39-3 LC Card Catalog # 86-080535
5 1/2" x 8 1/2" 182 pages paperbound

This book is nicely typeset with a profusion of diagrams and good quality photographs. Chapter 3 is the big one, and gives step-by-step detailed instructions with diagrams and photos. The tools involved include such exotic machine tools as a handheld electric drill, taps, dies, files and a pipe threading die. Also a wood saw and a chisel would be needed to shape the stock. The raw materials include pipe, a pipe cap, a nail, a hose clamp, some angle iron, and a spring.

But I'm sure that these methods won't be needed. When cocaine is smuggled into this country in 20 ton shipments, a case or 10 of guns can easily ride along.
4.12.2008 4:28pm
jccamp:
Actually, most homicides are probably not susceptible to police influence, because they are crimes of passion, such as domestic arguments or bar fights. However, in some jurisdictions - typically, large urban areas - a portion of murders are directly related to the drug trade and competition among criminal groups. This 2nd type is very susceptible to police action, which should be organized-crime type investigations and prosecutions. Adding highly visible police officers only displaces crimes like this to someone else's neighborhood. In short, arguing that COPS type programs can reduce homicide rates is probably untrue. As an aside, COPS programs and high visibility police will effect other types of crime, like robbery, burglary, etc. But not murder.
4.12.2008 8:19pm
jccamp:
Oops. One correction. COPS programs which add officers and high visibility patrols can - not will - affect some crimes. Depends on the implementation. Which in my experience, was usually ineffective, not effective.
Sorry.
4.12.2008 8:31pm
glangston (mail):
Did murder rate decline at the end of alcohol prohibition?

Some one give me a clue



Yes, but the unemployed revenue agents were kept on to enforce the "new prohibition" of certain weapons in the NFA (1934). It was, of course, this tight control of these weapons that led to the decreasing murder rate and not the repeal of Prohibition, which WAS responsible for increased murders.

5 year government plans have several outcomes. Success (rare), failure (less rare) and extensions (the most common). I just see more government workers.
4.12.2008 9:38pm
30yearProf:
The problem isn't guns. There are guns everywhere (especially in the nearby NoVa suburbs). This is about Washington, DC in 1989. But, I'll bet $100 that the demographics, in 2008, are about the same in DC and in Philly, and in every other city with a politically correct "gun violence" problem.

<b>Capital Offers A Ripe Market To Drug Dealers</b>

By RICHARD L. BERKE, Special to the New York Times
March 28, 1989, Tuesday, Late City Final Edition
Section A; Page 1, Column 1; National Desk

(WASHINGTON) The explosion of drug-related killings that has made the District of Columbia the nation's murder capital was set off, experts say, by the popularity of [drugs] in a city with no significant organized crime structure [no I-talians to enforce order on the marketplace -Ed.], an overwhelmed criminal justice system [too many DC cops with felony records -Ed.] and a local population that can afford to feed an insatiable appetite for drugs [white, liberal, Democrat, government employees -Ed.]. * * *

But figures show that Washington [in 1988] had the highest murder rate, and the problem this year is even worse.

The number of homicides in the District has climbed faster than in any of the other 12 major cities with high murder rates, according to reports from police departments in those cities. And the homicides in Washington are accompanied by a rise of similar proportions in other crimes.

As of late today, the Washington homicide toll for this year stood at 121, as against 78 at this time last year. <b>In 85 percent of this year's cases, drugs were somehow involved:</b> the victim was under the influence of drugs, drug paraphernalia was found near the body or the killing occurred in a crack house, the city's Office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis found.

<b>One Basic Profile</b>

Nearly all the victims were involved in the drug trade at one end or another: Dealers shooting dealers over turf. Dealers shooting customers unable to come up with cash. Dissatisfied customers shooting their dealer.

And most victims fit one basic profile. <b>They are killed by gunfire, in what are often execution-style slayings. The time of death is between 11 P.M. and 2 A.M. They are black and 18 to 32 years of age. [And, they are buying, selling, or transporting drugs (or have recently done so).]</b> * * *
short description

The NYT ran this story in only one edition (of several published that day). <i>Never again have they referred to the "one basic profile" that drives inner city murders.</i> Realism, you see, isn't politically correct. But no "program" can be a solution (whether proposed by Clinton, Obama, or McCain) that ignores this reality.

Unless you're a Nutter.
4.12.2008 10:03pm
ReaderY:
Seems easy to plan for. Only problem is achieving the plan. But planning's no problem at all
4.12.2008 10:37pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Vote Obama, and we can start to get this Country back on track and make some sense of a healthy economy and restore international confidence in Americans."


By introducing a raft of new expensive social programs? By comprehensive immigration reform which will flood the country with new poor uneducated immigrants yearning to be free and paid for (this goes especially for McCain).

Now tell me has BHO ever run so much as a candy store?
4.12.2008 10:54pm
jccamp:
What the Prof says is very valid. If the (urban) homicide numbers suddenly jump, it's not because of an increase in domestic violence or availability of firearms. Those numbers are pretty stable, year to year. Big increases in murder usually indicate the drug trade version of M &A. Unfortunately, a typical anti-drug investigation will often take off the top layers, but leave the middle and lower ranks. This actually creates violence, as people move into the vacuum and vie for control. If drug investigations are also going to impact violence, they must take out an entire organization, top-to-bottom, with significant penalties - which tends to fly in the face of new efforts to reduce drug sentences (stand-alone drug offenses being "non-violent").
And the Prof's victim profile is also correct...but not politically correct. In some areas, like Ca and along the SW border, you might substitute Hispanic...but poor and uneducated are constants.
I don't know about post-Prohibition, but today, gun availability is a given and actually has nothing to do with murder rates.
4.12.2008 10:56pm
byomtov (mail):
Now tell me has BHO ever run so much as a candy store?

Has McCain? Has Clinton? Has any President since Truman?

I can think of two: Eisenhower, who successfully ran something considerably more complex in WWII, and GW Bush, who ran several businesses into the ground before finding a role as a political string puller for the Texas Rangers.
4.13.2008 12:15am
theobromophile (www):
So I'm assuming that Madame Clinton would:

*Repeal gun bans;
*Encourage two-parent households;
*Discourage out-of-wedlock births;
*Kick the illegals out of America (some 2/3ds of LA gang members are illegal immigrants or the legally born, via birthright citizenship, children thereof); and
*Close the borders.

Right?
4.13.2008 12:39am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Jimmy Carter ran his family farm. I guess that proves that success in the private sector leads to a deeper understanding of that sector, and to success in running a government.
4.13.2008 12:25pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Actually, most homicides are probably not susceptible to police influence, because they are crimes of passion, such as domestic arguments or bar fights.

That's not true.

It is true that most homicides involve people who know one another. That shouldn't be surprising - people spend most of their time interacting with people whom they know, giving them both an opportunity to kill said people and an opportunity to get a reason to kill.

While everyone gets mad, people who kill are different than average people. The vast majority of killers happen to have a long history of violence, a history that is fairly rare. In the case of domestic killings and to a lesser extent "bar fights", they've had violent run-ins with their eventual victims.

It's wrong to call these crimes of passion because it's not passion, which we all have, it's yet another incidence of thuggery. Crime of passion is merely their attempt to get off.
4.13.2008 1:56pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
And yes, it's true that most murder convictions (outside of prison) are of folks who haven't committed murder before. That's because murder is a young person's crime and murder sentences are typically long enough that folks who get them aren't young when they're on the streets again.

The fact that someone hasn't been previously convicted of murder doesn't make that person a choir boy.
4.13.2008 1:58pm
Smokey:
Say anything. That's what Mrs Clinton is doing, right?

She did the same thing when running for the Senate, when she promised 200,000 new jobs for upstate New York. The result? New York lost ~20,000 jobs since her election.

Say anything... "Oh, look, there's a wolf at the door!"
4.13.2008 2:10pm
Jon Faria:
I'd have to agree with Jim at FSU - this is simply not an issue for the federal government. Homicide rates are the product of innumerable social and economic factors that can only really be appreciated at the local level. To imply that a sweeping federal policy can reduce these rates in "cities with high homicide rates" across the board is naive at best, however desirable that might be. But I wouldn't try to fix my carburetor with a shovel, and wouldn't expect the federal government would be effective in addressing particularly local problems.
4.13.2008 4:10pm
Mark in Texas (mail):
halving homicide rates over five years, even in "cities with high homicide rates," seems a pretty challenging task

What is required to halve the homicide rate is actually pretty simple. Rudolph Giuliani demonstrated how to do it in New York City. It is challenging only because most of the time Democratic politicians prevent you from doing it.

Most crimes are committed by a small subset of the population. Most violent crimes are committed by a small subset of that small subset. If people who commit violent crimes are locked up for a very long time, they do not have an opportunity to commit violence against ordinary citizens during the decades that they spend in prison and they are often too old to commit violent crimes when they get out.

Of course, Democrats hate any simple policy that works. They prefer complex failure to simple success. Every year we see the annual New York Times article "How come there are so many people in prison when the crime rate is low?" There is also the unfortunate fact that more than half the homicides in this country are committed by an ethnic group that is only about 13% of our population and so they will be disproportionately represented in the prison population.
4.13.2008 4:44pm
30yearProf:
<blockquote>
Did murder rate decline at the end of alcohol prohibition?
Some one give me a clue.
Actually, it appears yes.
</blockquote>

Yes, it did. <b>Not</b> because of gun control, though — the 1934 NFA only affected a tiny fraction of weapons (those supposedly "favored" by gangsters) and other federal and state gun laws were essentially non-existent before the JFK assassination.

<b>Nope, what happened was that bootlegging became legitimized.</b> If a seller had collection concerns, he could demand that his buyer produce a letter of credit from a bank or sue them in court. If a buyer got product that didn't meet the seller's warranty or got shorted in quantity, he could cover and sue. Customers who got "green" beer could bring it back for a refund. And everyone could use checks and banks. There was no longer any business need to kill over a credit/quality/quantity dispute. There were more profitable ways to resolve differences.

<b>As the D.C. article I referred to above, demonstrates, Hillary CAN reduce the homicide rate by 50% (up to 85% in D.C.) if she will legitimize the manufacture, sale, and use of recreational drugs.</b>

<i>But, she won't. </i> American politicians of both parties and the anti-drug INDUSTRY are totally committed to <i>spending</i> a trillion dollars a year on this failed policy. The police are intoxicated on SWAT toys and forfeiture dollars. Too many jobs, too much money, too much ego has been committed to this losing battle (which costs more than the real war in Iraq).

But, any President (even McCain or Obama) could do it. They don't because they really don't care about dead gangbangers and dopers. But they can't admit that! Nor can politicians DO nothing. So we'll see more cops and more laws. All to no avail.
4.13.2008 7:04pm
jccamp:
Although this is somewhat off the original point, I must respond to Andy. In 2006, a representative year and the last for which we have complete stats, homicide committed by family and friends outnumbered felony-type murders (robbery, drug dealing, etc) by more than 2 to 1. There is no way law enforcement is going to influence this first number. Homicides happen due to alcohol and drug use combined with personal and societal frustrations and angers which focus on someone known to the offender. The offender, in a moment of anger, picks up a knife or a hammer or a firearm and kills someone else. Even if the offender has a history of violence, it's usually minor (relatively so) and not going to result in long prison terms. If ones thinks about it, the only way the police prevent murder is to incarcerate and convict people who otherwise might commit murder. This is not going to happen to someone with a history of drunken brawling or domestic violence until the behavior reaches some plateau of serious injury, which is usually simultaneous with the murder.
When referring to career criminals or those engaged in criminal enterprises likely to involve murder - like crack cocaine organizations - the police can influence murder numbers.
And I when I say "crimes of passion" I'm certainly not trying to justify murderers, I'm describing a state of mind at the time of the crime that allows otherwise (relatively - let's say little history of felonious violence) law abiding people to irrationally commit murder. Which is completely different from the serial robber who kills to eliminate witnesses, or the drug group who kills the competition to gain prime sales areas.
We could agree that any realistic programs intended to reduce murders almost always will involve tying to eliminate drug organizations (or urban gangs - the same thing), and soon conflict with that don't-send-non-violent-offenders-to-prison idea. This is the built-in schizophrenia which confounds Hillary's proposal.
4.13.2008 7:30pm
jccamp:
And I totally agree with the Prof as to legalizing drugs. If this country legalized street drugs and made them available at low or no cost, crime in most categories would drop like a stone. Addicts or drug-dependent people would no longer have to commit crime to support their need. Removing the profit from drugs would eliminate most drug trafficking and its attendant violence and corruption. The billions spent on the War on Drugs could be used elsewhere. But, sadly, I expect that this will never happen, because no politician anywhere will have the backbone to propose it, or the constituency to remain in office if he/she did.
4.13.2008 7:39pm
30yearProf:
In 2006, a representative year and the last for which we have complete stats, homicide committed by family and friends outnumbered felony-type murders (robbery, drug dealing, etc) by more than 2 to 1.


Wrong. Most of these so-called friends are business "acquaintances" (per FBI usage) in the drug/gang business. Real "stranger" murders (which the FBI only classifies as those where the perp and vic have never met) are few.
4.13.2008 8:25pm
jccamp:
Raw data from the 2006 FBI UCR's:

total homicides 14,990
felony type (including drug dealing &a subcategory of acquaintance felony type) 2436
felony type by offender known to victim 805
felony type by stranger 583
non felony type by immediate family, boyfriend-girlfriend or employee-employer (and ignoring other known to victim) 2531
all non-felony type when offender is definitely known to victim 4484
total felony type murders 2436
total non-felony type 7273

The reason for my original statement was in response to HRC's plan to cut murders by 50%. I said that most murders are not preventable, because of the setting and motive. No matter how you parse the numbers, murders not committed during the commission of another felony outnumber murders committed as part of another felony, including drug dealing, by more than 2 to 1. If, for instance, two men who deal drugs get in a fight over a dice game, and one kills the other, that is not a murder related to drug dealing. It's a non-felony type murder. Non-felony type murders are not susceptible to prevention by the government.

You're arguing stranger murders vs. known murder-victim relationships. I'm arguing motive and circumstance which may or may not be susceptible to prevention.

In either case, I took my numbers directly from the UCR's. There's no basis for assuming "acquaintances" per FBI usage means "engaged in common criminal behavior." It also means just that - they're acquainted.

There are significant gaps because a huge number are unsolved (or unreported) and therefore "unknown." we can only use the numbers where the relationship is known.
4.13.2008 9:09pm
30yearProf:
total non-felony type 7273


This figure includes a great many "business"-related murders (i.e., drug and gang) when the killing takes place at a time/place where another felony is not coincident. For example, Tom isn't trying to rob or burgle Reggie at this moment, he's just killing Reggie because Reggie is thought to have been holding out drug money or he's found on the wrong turf. Just a murder; no other felony immediately attached.

You can't make the connection to another felony but if Reggie wasn't "in the business," he'd wouldn't have died on that day. These are murders that (1) could be eliminated, in large part, by legitimating recreational drugs and (2) are no threat to ordinary people outside the 'hood.

In Minneapolis, for example, non-domestic abuse, non-convenience store murders constitute about 90% of murders and involve perps with 7.4 prior arrests and vics with ... 7.5 priors. These are neither normal nor nice folks. In fact, almost all of the perps and vics live in two zip codes (one on the north side and one and the south side) so it's a concentrated problem.

As the D.C. stats suggest, it IS possible to reduce murders by 50% if you eliminate the "business" need created by the illegal nature of the recreational drug trade. But no politician will do that.
4.14.2008 12:20am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Even if the offender has a history of violence, it's usually minor (relatively so) and not going to result in long prison terms.

"Even if" grossly distorts reality. It suggests that such history is rare among murderers, but it's not. Moreover, that history is rare among non-murderers.

Minor is a judgement call by the criminal justice system about the severity of the action. It's applied after all of the excuses have been applied and the victims might well disagree.

I'm pointing out that these so-called "minor" offenses are statistically significant predictors, much more so than alcohol, acquaintance, bars, passion, frustration, and all of the other factors that jccamp relies on.

> If ones thinks about it, the only way the police prevent murder is to incarcerate and convict people who otherwise might commit murder.

Incarcerate/punish and convict aren't the only things that police can do and police aren't the only tools available to society, so the above manages to both miss the point and be wrong.
If police were the only social tools, this might be relevant.

> This is not going to happen to someone with a history of drunken brawling or domestic violence until the behavior reaches some plateau of serious injury, which is usually simultaneous with the murder.

That's if you believe that the state shouldn't intervene before serious injury.
4.14.2008 10:28am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> And I when I say "crimes of passion" I'm certainly not trying to justify murderers, I'm describing a state of mind at the time of the crime that allows otherwise (relatively - let's say little history of felonious violence) law abiding people to irrationally commit murder.

"Crime of passion" is the phrase they use to justify/excuse their action. It's a "I'm just an ordinary person doing ordinary things so I shouldn't be punished (much) when I get unlucky and a bad result happens" argument. (FWIW, that's what they said to excuse their previous "minor" violence.)

Repeating their argument as if it is true is supporting it. Since it isn't true....

While it is plausible that murder would often be committed by ordinary people who just got mad, the reality is different. They're not "otherwise law-abiding". They're not ordinary. They have a history of violence, a history that is fairly rare among non-murderers.

That's not to say that all people who have a couple of incidents of "minor" violence will become murders, but the fact remains - murderers work up to it. They have a history of "just got mad", they repeatedly commit "crimes of passion". The rest of us don't. That makes them very "not ordinary".
4.14.2008 10:41am
Andy Freeman (mail):
Interestingly enough, murder isn't the only crime by acquaintance. Almost all "personal interaction" crimes, including robbery, rape, and assault/battery, are committed primarily by acquaintances. (Which reminds me, why doesn't rape get excused as a "crime of passion"?) And, they're committed in much the same circumstances as murder.

It has been implied that murder during robbery is "susceptible to prevention by the government". Since robbery is also committed on acquaintances, that suggests that the govt's ability is strongly affected by the words that the perp says or the perp's intent, not by the circumstance.
4.14.2008 10:56am
jccamp:
Hi Prof,
Let's agree, then, on this: removing the criminal sanctions for most illegal drugs would significantly reduce homicide in urban centers which experience drug-related violence. No one really knows to what degree murders would go down - you and I are both trying to extrapolate from insufficient data and, at least in my case, from anecdote - and the reductions would vary, urban center to urban center. I can't speak to Minneapolis, but in the major city that I do have first hand experience has unique population and environmental factors that make it different, from say, Detroit or DC.
Let's also agree that HRC's plan to reduce murders in cities with high murder rates by 50% is more hype than reality in today's political climate.
4.14.2008 11:18am
jccamp:
Andy -
The FBI collects data on the relationship of victim and offender in homicide cases only. There is absolutely no way to assert that robbery and rape are primarily committed by acquaintances. Certainly, robbery is primarily a stranger on stranger crime, even if you discount when, for instance, former employees rob a business because they know security details. As for rape, there just isn't any way to know, since no one collects that data, although I'll grant that many rapes start with some voluntary meeting of the parties, even if very short and occurring immediately before the crime, like a bar pick-up. Assault and battery crimes are usually between people known to each other.
Murder during robbery is susceptible to police intervention, because a very small number of serial robbers commit most of the crimes. Murder during a robbery is most often committed by persons who have past convictions for violent crime and who have learned from their past convictions to eliminate witnesses (in the mistaken belief that this will prolong their freedom). Arresting &convicting someone for robbery will prevent many robberies that he/she might have committed if free, and robbery usually results in significant sanctions resulting in the robber being removed a from position to commit more robberies for some lengthy time. Compare this to something like domestic violence, which can escalate to murder, but normally results in no or very short periods of incarceration. The person who commits domestic violence over and over, sometimes ending in murder, is not usually judged guilty of crimes resulting on long sentences, until someone dies. I'm not saying I agree with this treatment, I'm just saying that's how it is.
Rape is not a crime of passion, or even sex. it's about domination and control, and sometimes hate.
Maybe it is more understandable this way: robbers are typically sociopathic personalities. So are rapists. They don't like or empathize with other humans. Some people who commit murder are also sociopaths, but some are not sociopaths - they have poor impulse control, and one day, it intersects with substance abuse and anger and focuses on anyone who is nearby. That's usually acquaintances or family.
4.14.2008 12:19pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> The FBI collects data on the relationship of victim and offender in homicide cases only. There is absolutely no way to assert that robbery and rape are primarily committed by acquaintances.

There are other data sources. While the term "date rape" may include acts that some people don't think are rape, it also includes circumstances that aren't "dates" or even "bar pickup" - it's basically "known to victim".

> Certainly, robbery is primarily a stranger on stranger crime

Except that it isn't, and neither is assault. (Introspection is somewhat useless unless you have relevant experience.)

> Rape is not a crime of passion, or even sex. it's about domination and control, and sometimes hate.

Since sex can be about domination and control and lots of people who hate one another have sex, that's not even coherent.

"rape is not about passion/sex" requires some definitional gymnastics. If we use the "assault" definitions, rape is passion. If we use the "rape is domination/control" definitions, assault is domination/control.

It's interesting that not "susceptible to prevention by the government" relies on "can't change penalties".
4.14.2008 10:50pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Maybe it is more understandable this way: robbers are typically sociopathic personalities. So are rapists. They don't like or empathize with other humans. Some people who commit murder are also sociopaths, but some are not sociopaths - they have poor impulse control, and one day, it intersects with substance abuse and anger and focuses on anyone who is nearby. That's usually acquaintances or family.

Since murderers typically have histories of robbery, rape, and the like, the claim that robbers, rapists, and assaulters are sociopaths but murderers aren't is clearly bogus. Or, are we going with "the robbers, rapists, and thugs who aren't sociopaths are the only ones who commit murder"? Not much of an improvement.

I realize that its convenient if murderers are somehow normal, but that doesn't make it so.

BTW - If you're going to argue that incarceration for robbery eliminates the robberies that would have occurred but for incarceration, why isn't the same true of assault? Note that there's some escalation tendency among both and frankly, I take assault leading to murder more seriously than I do small robbery leading to big robbery.
4.14.2008 10:57pm