Saturday, May 29, 2010

Police Profiling

The New York Times is indignant that the NYPD is using profiling to fight crime in the city, or at least that's how they choose to interpret the data on police "stops." For example, blacks made up 55 percent of all stops by police in 2009, though they're only 23 percent of the city's population; whites accounted for 10 percent of all stops, though they're 35 percent of the city's population; Hispanics made up 32 percent of all stops, though 28 percent of the population, and Asians, 3 percent of all stops and 12 percent of the population.

Pretty damning statistics, these, at least in the minds of those predisposed to see nefarious prejudices at play whenever the cops are at work. Heather MacDonald at City Journal refuses to settle for the simplistic analysis of the Times, however, and digs a little deeper. Here's what she comes up with:

Here are the crime data that the Times doesn't want its readers to know: blacks committed 66 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009 (though they were only 55 percent of all stops and only 23 percent of the city's population). Blacks committed 80 percent of all shootings in the first half of 2009. Together, blacks and Hispanics committed 98 percent of all shootings. Blacks committed nearly 70 percent of all robberies. Whites, by contrast, committed 5 percent of all violent crimes in the first half of 2009, though they are 35 percent of the city's population (and were 10 percent of all stops). They committed 1.8 percent of all shootings and less than 5 percent of all robberies.

The face of violent crime in New York, in other words, like in every other large American city, is almost exclusively black and brown. Any given violent crime is 13 times more likely to be committed by a black than by a white perpetrator-a fact that would have been useful to include in the Times's lead, which stated that "Blacks and Latinos were nine times as likely as whites to be stopped." These crime data are not some artifact that the police devise out of their skewed racial mindset. They are what the victims of those crimes-the vast majority of whom are minority themselves-report to the police.

You cannot properly analyze police behavior without analyzing crime. Crime is what drives NYPD tactics; it is the basis of everything the department does. And crime, as reported by victims and witnesses, sends police overwhelmingly to minority neighborhoods, because that's where the vast majority of crime occurs-by minority criminals against minority victims.

The Times's analysis, by contrast, which follows in lock step with the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, assumes that policing should mirror census data. The only numerical benchmark that the Times provides for the NYPD's stop data is the city's population ratios. According to this analysis, since whites are 35 percent of the city's population, they should be 35 percent of police stops, even though they commit only 5 percent of all violent crimes. But using census data as a benchmark for policing is as nonsensical as it would be to use census data for fire department activity. If a particular census tract has a disproportionate number of fires, and another census tract has none, no one expects the FDNY to send out fire trucks to non-existent fires in the fire-free census tract just for the sake of equal representation.

It requires very little thought to see the foolishness of trying to use police stops by themselves as evidence of racial bigotry, but it is precisely "very little thought" at which the left seems often to excel. Indeed, when it comes to matters of racial conflict, serious thinking is often the first casualty.

If the Times wishes to probe racial differences in a more fruitful fashion it might look at the disparity in the crime statistics and ask this question: What is wrong with minority communities that their members seem so incapable of living harmoniously with their fellows? An honest examination of that question might result in a story that would actually be both interesting and useful. I doubt, though, that we'll ever see it from the Times or any other mainstream media outlet. The findings might offend too many PC sensibilities and challenge too many liberal dogmas.


No Third Option

Edward Oakes over at First Things offers up some thoughts on the self-defeating nature of the New Atheists' project. Oakes takes Nietzsche as his foil and writes:

In his book On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense, Nietzsche gives us this ultimate atheist scenario: "In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of 'world history'-yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die." He continued:

"One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. . . ."

[S]cience teaches that all stars eventually die out, and with them the planets that orbit them, and once those planets are consumed by the suns that gave them birth, so too will vanish the pathetic creatures that emerged from their respective planetary slimes. Sure, soon after their emergence, they began to invent such high-blown Platonic words like knowledge and truth during their brief strut upon the otherwise empty stage of the cosmos. But so what?

I am not trying to argue here against such a scenario, it being an option impervious to argument anyway .... But it is a scenario that can hardly be regarded as consequence-free. The battle is still between nihilism and theism. There is no third option.

When the intellectual history of the last fifty years is written I think it'll be a source of wonder that so few people who embraced an atheist worldview saw the nihilist implications of their unbelief. Christians have for two thousand years based their belief in moral obligation, meaning in life, and objective truth in the transcendent personal God of the Bible. Many atheists reject God but hold on to the Christian view of morality, meaning and truth without realizing that if atheism is true they have no grounds for these things. They are piggy-backing on a Christian tradition that they despise. They're like a man riding a horse while denying that horses exist. Yet they dare not abandon their Christian steed for as soon as they dismount they find they have no place to stand.

It's more than a little ironic that atheists avoid nihilism only by living vicariously and parasitically off the Christian worldview.