25 Shot in NY in One Day. Crime Stats. How To Read Them.

Added on by Arturo Gutierrez.

I like stats. Especially when the manner in which they are presented border on the absurd, or when it's a clear case of missing data and an argument is formed and a side taken before data is found to support it. Look at drudge, most days. 

But I love crime stats. They can clarify misguided perception. We want to believe Colombia and Panama are places ridden with homicide and drugs on scale much greater than what is found in North America. When in reality they have growing GDP's, talented work forces, emerging world class metropolis centers and diminishing violent crime rates.

So when I hear that 25 people were shot in a two day period in NY I think, "those UN  crime stats are correct." And my perception about where it may be safe and where it may not should be questioned. The US is listed 3rd in intentional homicide deaths in the developed world. Number 1, you ask? Mexico... but why? And this is where you may need sound analysis and reasoning, or just a minute to sit and think about what it means. In the US we find St Louis, Detroit, New Orleans as some of the most violent cities with gang affiliated activity resulting in those crimes. In Mexico its a large scale border city war on drugs... so does that translate into homicide in the rest of the country? Absolutely not, and definitely not at the scale the overall average would suggest. Stats are true, but sometimes in silos. And when they represent a geographical area some additional reasoning may be needed to create real value out of those numbers. In my case it means, "I will not visit Juarez or Matamoros, but I will visit Oaxaca, Zacatecas, Veracruz and Chiapas... and I may hire a driver. 

But as I write this I recall a conversation I had with a family member a year ago about their perception and logic of traveling in mexico. The cartel war that has filled the news cycle on anything mexico related has posed many safety concerns. Rightly so. But if we don't want to visit mexico city because of what is happening in Ciudad Juarez, it's equivalent to saying we'll avoid New York because of the heroin problem in Baltimore, or the gang problems in Bushwick. Is that an argument laden with reason?


- arturo gutierrez