San Francisco Chronicle — Crime Statistics and Politics are a Deadly Mix

by Joe Garofoli
San Francisco Chronicle
August 1, 2021

When it comes to crime and politics, statistics don’t really matter. Feelings do.

Just ask San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott. Violent crimes such as homicides are up across California, but most other crimes are down.

“Statistics — I’m glad we track them, I’m glad we have them,” Scott told me. “I can tell people all day long that crime is down. But if you don’t think so and you don’t feel safe, then that has to matter to us.”

… Ultimately, experts say, the video is much more powerful in shaping opinion… .

… “It softens up the voter base, so they’re willing to believe misleading information,” said Jeffrey Butts, a research professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “And then their local official tells them that, ‘It’s because we’re letting people out of jail. We’re doing this bail reform and that’s the problem.’ (Voters) say ‘That makes sense to me.’ So they think they have an explanation.”

I asked Butts whether he had any tips for voters trying to sift through politicians invoking crime statistics.

“Sadly, I’ve dedicated my life to using facts and data to influence crime policy. I don’t think we’re any better at it than we were 30 years ago,” Butts said. He has seen both Democrats and Republicans try to use crime stats to scare voters. It’s hard to stop them because “politics was way out ahead of information and the facts.”

[ read the entire article at San Francisco Chronicle ]

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle