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USA Today: FBI Director Comey Fans Flames without Evidence on ‘Ferguson Effect’

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Editorial Board
USA Today

Since the mid-1990s, violent crime in the USA has dropped by nearly half. From 713.6 incidents per 100,000 people in 1994, it had fallen to 365.5 by last year. Apart from a short-lived uptick in 2005 and 2006, the downward trend has been persistent.

Criminologists initially attributed the decline to the ebbing of the crack cocaine epidemic. When the rate continued to fall long after the crack turf wars were over, the experts turned to other possible explanations. Changes in policing? The rising rates of incarceration? No single explanation was particularly convincing.

But now that preliminary data show an increase in violent crime in certain large cities this year, one man says he already knows why. FBI Director James Comey  says the spike is at least in part the result of what is being called the “Ferguson effect” — the increased scrutiny of officers in the wake of several highly publicized police brutality cases, including the shooting of an unarmed man in Ferguson, Mo., last year. This scrutiny, Comey says, is causing police to be more cautious and criminals to be more emboldened.

It is possible, of course, that Comey is on to something and will be proved right over time. Surely, no officer wants to be the next YouTube sensation. But given the history of crime theories, confidence in a gut-sense explanation is unwarranted. Blaming the crime rise on police criticism is provocative and shouldn’t be done without firm data to back it up.

To read more click here. 


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