At the moment, there’s a pretty fierce debate going on about crime. While it appears there have been spikes in the number of murders in several large cities, like Baltimore, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, beyond that there just isn’t a great deal of evidence for a nationwide uptick in violent crime, as Max Ehrenfreund laid out very nicely in the Washington Post. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped people from taking very limited slices of data and freaking out in an overgeneralized way about just how dangerous things have gotten, and/or making politicized points about a new crime wave. (Suffice it to say that the damage and trauma that’s inflicted in neighborhoods that succumb to rampant violence shouldn’t be swept aside, but the question of whether American society as a whole is getting more dangerous is a different one.)
That’s why the John Jay College of Criminal Justice tweeted out a link to this old blog post earlier. It features the below video, which anyone who wants to be a decently informed news consumer should watch — and not just because doing so entails listening to a soothing Norwegian guy talk over an animation of a rambunctious puppy. It also contains the most elegant explanation I’ve seen of a really important concept.
Whether the subject is crime or anything else that can be plotted over time on a graph, don’t watch the dog!