Murderapolis: Etymology and blame

In my Daily Standard column “Return to Murderapolis,” I attributed the origin of the term “Murderapolis” to the New York Times. Joel Rosenberg writes to correct me:

With regard to Scott Johnson’s excellent Daily Standard column, a correction is in order, I think: the “Murderapolis” term was coined by Mark Koscielski, owner/proprietor of Koscielski’s Guns and Ammo, which the city of Minneapolis is trying to put out of business. It was subsequently picked up by, among others, the NYTimes, and Mark was previously and subsequently picked on by the city of Minneapolis. He’s not much loved by the officials of our city, as he’s a definite gadfly. (Full disclosure: he’s a friend of mine, and I do most of my carry classes at his gunshop. I was around when he did his first run of Murderapolis stuff, well before the term was picked up by anybody else. )
For more on the gunshop, see http://www.livejournal.com/users/joelrosenberg/135458.html , http://www.livejournal.com/users/joelrosenberg/137359.html and Mark’s own website at http://www.savethegunshop.com, where, once again, he’s selling Murderapolis T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Yesterday’s mail also brought a message making the same point in the course of a considerably less friendly comment on my piece from the editor of Minneapolis’s downtown Skyway News (soon to become Downtown Journal). David Brauer is the editor of the Skyway News, although his name is not on the message as it was forwarded to me by the Standard:

In his article, “Return to Murderapolis,” Scott Johnson laments the “destructive effects of one-party liberal rule” to explain the city’s 2005 murder rate.
However, Johnson conveniently omits the culpability of a second party: the state GOP, which in 2003 and 2004 pushed through a $24 million state-aid cut to Minneapolis’s general fund. That buys a whole lot of cops.
I know burden-sharing is unpopular in some circles, but the state sliced 10 percent off the city’s general fund, three-quarters of which pays for the basics: police, fire and roads. Swallowing such a cut while confronting rising health-care costs (a problem not unique to Minneapolis City Hall) could only result in fewer boots on the street.
Other crimes of omission: Johnson cites two “high-profile” 2002 murders to “suggest gangs had retaken the streets and that Murderapolis had returned.”
Uh-oh. Murders rose from 43 in 2001 to 46 in 2002 – and then fell to 44 in 2003, the second-lowest year since the 1995 peak. Even last year’s 54 were fewer than the 58 in 1998, after the “Giuliani” reforms Johnson credits for a “virtually immediate” Minneapolis crime drop. Logicians should beware of anecdotal “suggestions” in place of data.
While Johnson laments the “deterioration” in city crime-fighting between 2000 and 2005, Minneapolis Part I crimes – the most serious, driven by citizen reports, not police – fell EVERY YEAR from 1997 to 2003, rising by five incidents in 2004. Such a crime wave! Even the 2004 number is a stunning 40 percent below 1997, and 19 percent below 1999, Johnson’s last “pre-deterioration” year.
Aggravated assault numbers might rise this year – from a decimated base. In, 2004, there were 2,026 agg-assault reports – 10 percent fewer than 1999 (2,387) and 15 percent below 1998 (2,691).
The rise in murder and aggravated assaults in the past several months is real and worrisome – but the trend is so short-term as to defy Johnson’s pat analysis. Aside from statistical anomaly, a reasonable person could identify many causes besides alleged liberal turpitude: a continuingly sluggish economy (is it only Bush who gets off blaming the “triple whammy?”), more felons getting out of jail (in a state with no Democratic governor since 1990), or, as police say, the emergence of new, younger gang members who take time to remove.
And besides, blaming “lakeshore liberals” smacks of class warfare, which no conservative supports, right?
Much of Johnson’s case rests on the claim that a 2000 racial disparity study reduced enforcement. But while traffic stops fell, suspicious vehicle stops rose – probably a better way to find criminals.
The article contains other crimes against intellectual honesty. Johnson writes that Downtown businesses that sought police help this spring were told to hire private security guards. He provides no source or link. However, downtown Minneapolis’s Skyway News (which I edit) reported that police told businesspeople they wanted to work more closely with Downtown’s private security guards to cost-effectively extend public safety. It’s called a public-private partnership, and Johnson would applaud it in other circumstances if he didn’t have an ideological axe to grind. (Businesses have also agreed to buy more police patrols, using some of the property-tax cut they received just before the state cut the city’s local-government aid. There’s some justice there.)
By the way, about the “Murderapolis” headline: Johnson credits it to the New York Times, but it was actually coined by a local gun dealer. Call that offense a misdemeanor.

I don’t have time to respond at length to the message this morning, but there’s a certain internal inconsistency to the argument that makes it self-refuting. For the moment, I merely offer it as Exhibit A in the mentality that has produced the dire circumstances in which I believe Minneapolis finds itself.

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