A Stones Throw 5-1-14

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Two weeks ago I wrote the following:

“I am even more concerned when I read the 2013 crime statistics for Switzerland County. I have to admit at the outset I was quite pleased. It appears that almost every type of crime was down from the previous year.

“Switzerland County, which has seemingly always been a safe place to live, seemed to become even safer in 2013.

“I felt good about the crime report until I read the final line – juvenile crime increased by 55-percent.

“Ouch!”

Last week, Judge W. Gregory Coy, in a letter to the editor, wrote: “I do not disagree that we need to be concerned by the crime statistics for juveniles here in the county. But I would like for the citizen of the county to be aware of the numbers we are talking about.

“First, in 2012 there were a total of eight cases involving seven juveniles filed for the year; four were cases that would have been felony-level if committed by an adult . . .

“In 2013, there were a total of nine cases filed; seven were felony level . . .”

At first glance, in reading Judge Coy’s response it would appear that he disagrees with the stated 55-percent increase in juvenile crime.

My first thought was, “If there was a discrepancy in the crime numbers that were presented in an earlier Vevay Newspapers’ report, why were those numbers not challenged at the time?”

But then, I remembered the A Stones Throw I wrote in November, 2011. In that column I wrote: “Both statements are true.

There are two sayings that I think explain these and other facts: ‘Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.’ And, ‘If you put one hand in boiling water and one hand in freezing water, on average you are comfortable’.”

I started thinking about this while recently watching the movie ‘The First Daughter’ starring Mariel Hemingway and Doug Savant. In the movie when Hemingway has to climb a very steep cliff Savant tells her: “Just remember, you are always only two feet off the ground.”

As you watch her climb the treacherous cliff, she stops, looks down, and says “only two feet off the ground.”

Again, this statement is absolutely true.

In this case, the two feet off the ground belonged to Mariel Hemingway.

A bit more confusing were the 2009 reports that claimed the Over the Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati was the most dangerous neighborhood in America. More dangerous than the worst neighborhoods in Detroit, Chicago, or Gary, Indiana. In fact, more dangerous than any other neighborhood being monitored by over 17,000 law enforcement agencies.

Then, less than a month after this report was published, Forbes Magazine named Cincinnati as the ninth safest city in America.

If Cincinnati has the most dangerous neighborhood in America – and one that provides the lead to many newscasts with “shots rang out in Over the Rhine” – while still being the ninth safest city in America, the rest of Cincinnati must be totally safe.

Actually, both reports are true. Those who surveyed the numbers in making their rankings simply used different numbers.

The idea of putting numbers together to tell different stories is not unique. For instance, this week an Indiana Housing Market Update indicated home sales for five southeast Indiana counties (Dearborn, Franklin, Ohio, Ripley, and Switzerland) showed significant increases in home sales and in the median sales price the first nine months of 2011 compared to the same time in 2010.

Hip Hip Hooray!

Just one problem. A closer look at the numbers shows that of the five counties in the report only Dearborn and Switzerland had increased sales. At the same time, the median price increased for all but one county – Switzerland County.

This sounds like a mixed report, not a significant increase, (Data and facts were current as of November 1st, 2011).

Sometimes the same numbers are translated into several different numbers.”

I think the question, perhaps controversy, on current juvenile crime statistics is a result of either using a different criteria to develop the numbers, or using the same numbers with a different interpretation.

Perhaps to explain this best: If I take the statistics from Judge Coy’s letter to the editor I find, first, that there was an increase of 12 1/2-percent increase in juvenile cases filed in Switzerland Circuit Court – nine in 2013 vs. eight in 2012.

At the same time, juvenile “cases that would have been felony-level if committed by an adult” increased an alarming 75 percent – seven in 2013 vs. four in 2012.

The numbers are correct. The percentages are correct.

There can be no question that a 75-percent increase in “cases that would have been felony-level if committed by an adult” is both alarming and worrisome.

If that was the only number available to consider.

Fortunately, in this instance, Judge Coy has offered actual numbers – not percentages. And, those numbers indicate a very small number of juveniles commit offenses that result in cases filed in Switzerland Circuit Court.

So, which is it? Did juvenile crime increase 55-percent from 2012 to 2013 as reported?

Or, should juvenile crime be judged by the 12 1/2-percent increase in offenses where the juvenile’s case was filed in Switzerland Circuit Court.

Or, should juvenile crime be judged by the 75-percent increase in “cases that would have been felony-level if committed by an adult?”

Or, maybe juvenile crime should simply be judged by the fact that only eight (2012) and nine (2013) juvenile cases were filed in Switzerland Circuit Court.

All of these statements are true.

As I wrote in November, 2011: “Give me some numbers and I will tell you a story”.

– Mike Cooney