Third Article in a Series Demolishing Boss Godfrey's Bogus Crime-fighter Theme
Thanks to a tip from reporter Lee Davidson at the Deseret News, I’ve finally managed to find a reliable source for crime statistics for Ogden City from the year 2006.
As you might recall, this datapoint was important in order to critically examine Mayor Godfrey’s repeated claim, in both his campaign literature and in his taxpayer-funded advertisement in the Thursday, August 30, 2007 Standard-Examiner, that
“Crime has dropped more than 23% since Matthew Godfrey became Mayor, including a drop in violent crimes of 43% compared with an increase of 21% during the 7 years before he took office.” [http://www.votematthew.com/about.html]
“[V]iolent crimes recorded in 1999 were 6.7 compared to 3.8 reported last year — in other words, violent crime in Ogden is down by 43 percent.” [Advertising supplement, Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner, Weber Plus section, p. 9D]
These statements are not misinterpretations. They are both, in fact, blatant lies. Mayor Matthew Godfrey is a liar.
I am not making an unsupported allegation. Rather, I’m basing my statement on the facts. Here are the sources of my information:
1) An undated report signed by Chief Greiner, apparently from 2004, available as an Acrobat version of a Powerpoint presentation on the Ogden City website. Click on the “12-Year Crime Report” link. (Greiner 2004).
2) The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, published annually with data breakdowns for all cities, states and regions (FBI UCR).
3) Mayor Godfrey’s personal advertising space, under the guise of an Ogden City communication with its citizens, published in the Thursday, August 30, 2007 Standard-Examiner (Godfrey 2007).
4) The State of Utah Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Crime in Utah annual report, available online (Utah BCI). Thanks to Lee Davidson of the Deseret News for this link.
Two independent editorial sources have also published articles that directly or indirectly refute Mayor Godfrey’s claims and directly support the claims made in my present article. Mr. Davidson and Pat Reavy of the Deseret News wrote an excellent article, “Prime for Crime?” published in the August 26 2007 Deseret News. I recommend this article for its discussion of the pitfalls of the type of crime analysis we’re engaging in here.
“South Salt Lake, a city with a relatively small population but a big industrial area, suffers the highest per-person crime rates — by far — in many categories.
In the period analyzed, the city had an average annual rate of 86 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.
That is three times higher than the state average — and even 17 percent higher than second-place Salt Lake City, and 46 percent higher than third-place Ogden.” [Davidson and Reavy, Deseret News, August 26, 2007]
(If my math is correct, this gives an average of 5.9 violent crimes per thousand in Ogden for the period under analysis, 2002 to 2006. My analysis gives 5.2 violent crimes per thousand. Mayor Godfrey says it’s 4.4 in his recent agitprop. More about this later.)
Over at the Salt Lake Tribune, Kristen Moulton provides the corrected figures for the “precipitous decline” [Matthew Godfrey, Salt Lake Tribune, August 8, 2007] in Ogden’s crime: 12.8 percent in total crime (less than the drop in the state as a whole) and a whopping, precipitous 5.1 percent in violent crime.
Mayor Godfrey must read the papers. (I’ll remain silent on the issue of whether he reads WCF.) He must know that his figures are wrong. Yet, he has not corrected them. Therefore, he’s a liar.
Here is a graph comparing violent crime rates (per 1000 citizens) for the years 1995 to 2006, updated to include the Utah Bureau of Criminal Investigation figures:
Note that three of the four sources of data are in good general agreement: the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (last year available, 2005); Chief Greiner’s undated report, presumed to be from 2004; and the Utah BCI reports.
The only data source that seems to be completely faulty, to the point of being fabricated from whole cloth, is Mayor Godfrey’s published numbers on which he bases his “precipitous 43% drop” claim.
In fact, the Mayor has artificially inflated his pre-Louis XV baseline (“Avant moi, le déluge”, says our own not-so-Sunny King). He actually reported 2000 and 2001 statistics accurately, and he’s pretty close on 2003 and 2004. He replicates Greiner’s erroneous 2002, artificially low numbers.
But where he really goes to town with the falsehoods is in the 2005 and 2006 statistics. He has dropped both numbers by more than a third in order to substantiate his false claim of a “precipitous 43% drop” in violent crime.
The 2005 violent crime rate per thousand people is 3.2 according to Matthew Godfrey and 4.9 according to the State of Utah. The 2006 violent crime rate per thousand people is 3.8 according to Mayor Godfrey and 6.0 according to the State of Utah. Who’re you gonna believe?
In fact, according to last year’s State of Utah BCI statistics, violent crime rates in the last year of Godfrey’s reign (6.0 per thousand) are above those of his first year in office (5.7 per thousand). Using his own faulty math skills (especially unforgiveable in a Master of Accounting) and hyperbolic phrasing, violent crime has suffered a precipitous increase during Mayor Godfrey’s administration.
The lies he tells about total crime are small only in comparison to the Big Lie (“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed…”, Orwell G, 1984).
Once again, the pre-Godfrey 1999 number is mysteriously inflated, and the 2006 number is artificially deflated. This makes the drop seem more “precipitous” than it actually is, and as has been noted earlier by Kristen Moulton and by me, the drop is still smaller than for the state of Utah as a whole over the same time period.
In fact, once again borrowing his phrasing, total crime is up precipitously from the first year of Mayor Godfrey’s administration to the last.
For those of you who have made it this far, some methodological notes. First, while reviewing my previous articles for accuracy, I was troubled by a discrepancy between sources in the 2000 data. I found a faulty population statistic in the FBI Uniform Crime Report data for 2000; they had used a previous census estimate rather than the official 2000 census figure for that year. As you can see in these graphs, when I corrected the denominator, all four data sources were in perfect agreement.
A second methodological note: the 2006 Utah Bureau of Criminal Investigation data are clearly marked as “preliminary”. However, it’s hard for me to imagine that the number of crimes reported in Ogden in 2006 will be revised downward from 474 crimes (two homicides, 42 forcible rapes, 132 robberies, and 298 aggravated assaults) to 301, which would be the number required to achieve Mayor Godfrey’s stated rate of 3.8 per thousand. (A total of 301 violent crimes divided by 79 thousand people gives 3.8 per thousand. A total of 474 violent crimes divided by 79 thousand people gives 6.0 per thousand.)
Third, I’ve had to estimate Ogden’s population for 2006. The US Census bureau estimates only run to July 2005: they have a population of 78,309. From 2000 to 2003, the population of Ogden rose by 1.4%. I applied the same rate of growth to 2003 to 2006 to get an estimated population of 79,389, even though Ogden’s estimated population peaked at 78,510 in 2002, according to the Census Bureau.
Using the larger population is favorable to Mayor Godfrey, and I’m a fair, albeit spiny, echidna.
Using the higher population estimate produces a violent crime rate of 5.97 per thousand citizens, as opposed to 6.05 per thousand with the official 2005 population estimate. Again, note that Ogden’s population would have to increase to 124,736 — catapulting Ogden’s population, currently seventh in the state, well above West Valley City and Provo, and making it second in size only to Salt Lake City in Utah — in order to get 474 violent crimes divided by 125 thousand population, or 3.8 violent crimes per thousand as Mayor Godfrey claims. Readers should also note that Provo's rate of violent crime is 1.4 per thousand for a city slightly larger than Ogden. (Source: Davidson and Reavy, DesNews article previously cited.) If Ogden could match Provo's violent crime rate, that would indeed be a "precipitous" drop in violent crime.
Or, as Occam’s Razor tells us, the simplest explanation is the most likely: Mayor Godfrey is a liar.