I am back home in Florida after a sad trip to Atlanta. No matter where I am, I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution every day, so sometimes it seems as if I never really leave the city. Weirdly, now when I’m actually in Atlanta, it seems like I’m not completely there, too, because I’ve gotten used to reading the Atlanta paper while looking out the window at this:
(my Florida backyard)
Such are the dislocations of the internet age.
Anyway, the new FBI crime statistics are out, and already being debated. Meanwhile, a Real Clear Politics report ranking cities by safety is out, and already being debated — that is, the part about Atlanta being the second-most dangerous large city in America, after Memphis. And on the flip side of the coin — the “crime is perception, not reality” side, one might say, other studies attempting to minimize the impact of crime using extremely odd criminological arguments about the meaning of criminal activity are still drifting through the atmosphere.
So this week, in an effort to feel a little less personally dislocated (relatively), I’m going to tackle to far more dislocated subject of crime stats: what they are, what they aren’t, and, most importantly, what they cannot be.
One pretty glaring thing crime stats cannot be is accurate. There are many reasons for this, but let me just offer one:
I did not report the attempted crime I saw happening in the parking lot of the Walmart on Highway 41 on June 7, so next year it will not be part of the statistics on crime in Atlanta.