24 July 2011

Rumpole and Food for Thought

The Mighty Ceeb is at it again with another story that distorts the information they started with.

Severe crime soaring in N.L.” screams the website headline. The second paragraph:

Statistics Canada reported that while reports of crime across the country are declining, Newfoundland and Labrador reported significant increases in crime. Violent crime in the province was up by 13 per cent in 2010, and up by 29 per cent in St. John's, the most significant increase in any Canadian city.

But wait.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary chief Bob Johnson points out that two murders in the capital region compared to none the year before will skew the statistics if that’s all you count on.

Some might blame Stats Can.

Nice try, but take a look at the table and see the numbers.

Sure the province went up on the combined set of measures Statistics Canada calls an index. But the province is still below the national average.  The violent crime severity index at 70.2 is lower than larger provinces and less than half the numbers for Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Here’s the original Stat Can table.  Click on it and you should get a larger version:


Stat Can issues regular news releases on crime statistics.  As such, anyone using the figures can make easy comparisons rather than just rely on the year over year change Statistics Canada used this time. you can find the crime severity index for Nl for 2007, for example:  61.8

At the end of a simple search and few comparisons and you can see Chief Johnson is pretty much spot on.  And in relative terms, the provincial score on these crime indices is below the national average and significantly better than in other parts of Canada.

Consider, too, that these figures don’t look at the rate of solved crimes.  That is, there’s no measurement here of how many of these crimes didn’t wind up with an arrest and/or conviction.   When miscreants can get away with their crime, odds are – one would suspect – that crime becomes attractive.

And if that doesn’t persuade, consider these words rom the police chief.  They are an accurate reflection of reality in the province’s booming capital city:

Johnston pointed out that in the case of the murders, the victims and the people charged knew each other. Apart from convenience store clerks, most citizens of St. John's — and Newfoundland and Labrador — are not likely to encounter serious or violent crimes close up.

"Even though the numbers are going up, violent crime in St. John's hasn't been spilling out into the streets where ordinary people, innocent bystanders, would be affected," said Johnston.

None of that is reflected in the CBC’s headline.

But then again, if it didn’t bleed, it wouldn’t lead.

If it bleeds, it leads?  Now where did you last hear that line used as a criticism of a media outlet?


Food for thought.

- srbp -