Last word on Murderapolis

Last Monday the Standard posted my column “Return to Murderapolis.” I posted the long message from David Brauer — editor of Minneapolis’s Skyway News, soon to become Downtown Journal — criticizing the column in “Murderapolis: Etymology and blame.” I included two long messages responding to Brauer with my own response yesterday morning in “Return to ‘Return to Murderapolis.'” Today Brauer sent me a message responding to yesterday’s post. I’ve deleted only Brauer’s introductory thanks for taking care to recognize the quality of his publication, for acknowledging its imminent name change, and for David Pence’s vouching for Brauer’s honesty:

I think Scott mischaracterizes and over-dramatizes what he calls my “substantive points,” which he distills to “1) Violent crime is largely under control in Minneapolis and 2) Republicans are responsible for the problem.”
My response worked from the landscape Scott originally painted: that the late-’90s were a time of good police work and falling crime rates, only to be soured in 2000 by a liberal racial profiling study leading to a five-year deterioration. My point was never that “violent crime is largely under control” – it never is, and every violent crime is a tragedy – but that the trend is considerably shorter-lived, so Scott’s causality seems highly suspect.
On to the GOP: Again, I was responding to Scott’s contention that only liberals – specifically “the destructive effects of one-party liberal rule and a stultifying political culture” – were responsible. The GOP’s $24 million local-government-aid cut wobbled the city’s budget (actually, the general fund; I didn’t count the entire $37 million city LGA cut) of which police is the top expense. The GOP and its tax-cut, drawbridge-up ethos bear some responsibility.
David Pence mentions the city Civil Rights Department and criticizes “mega-spenders” for “always treating a reduction of revenue as an assault on essentials rather than an opportunity to cut waste.” However, the city cut $200,000 from Civil Rights in 2004 and again in 2005, about a quarter of the office’s budget and far higher than any police cuts. And even if today’s $1.5 million budget is a ripe target, compare that to the $24 million LGA cut!
David goes on to talk about the “geographic apartheid” of crime rates, and this is of course true (if not unique to Minneapolis). Reducing crime clearly helps the poor; yet I await a conservative crime-fighting budget that does not include reduced federal and state support for crime-fighters on the front lines. I hope such a plan is out there – honestly – and would not trample the innocents you hold in justifiably high regard as crime victims.
That said, I am exasperated (well, something worse) at conservatives who criticize city crime levels that “would not be accepted in any suburb” without noting that far more poor people live here (both as prey and victimizers) than there. And of course, the willingness to cut LGA (until this year’s deal-making), meant conservatives could shelter taxes in communities with lower needs, sharing less of the burden of communities whose problems they can avoid. I guess economic apartheid is OK.
For all Scott’s carping about Minneapolis “lakeshore liberals,” they’re a hell of a lot closer to the action – and pay the higher local tax rates to fight it – than those living on the Minnetonka lakeshore.
Similarly, Steve Belmont writes that in the suburbs “crime is less tolerated by political leaders.” This brings to mind the famous quote about being born on third base and thinking you hit a triple. Steve mentions the difference between Part I and violent crimes; that’s why in my original post, I mentioned aggravated assaults, not just murder. (By the way, while Steve tweaks me for breaking out murders only, he should remember I was responding to a column entitled “Return to Murderapolis”).
Still, Steve analyzed things more specifically, and that’s good. My own boil-down of the numbers from Steve’s four specified categories shows this:
Murder: essentially flat until 2004.
Rape: the 2004 number was the lowest since at least 1998, probably well before.
Robbery: 2002 was the lowest year; there was a significant rise in 2003 that leveled in 2004. (If Scott had written “Return to Robberyapolis,” I might’ve had more sympathy.)
Agg assault: Steve is wise – some would say clever – to pick 2001 as his baseline for comparing agg-assault-plus-murder rates. That year was by far the low point for aggravated assaults (1,732); but if you look at the other years from 2000 on, the number is remarkably constant (2015-1732-1945-1923-2026).
If you used 2000 as the base, the 2004 murder-plus-agg-assault rate is up less than 1 percent; if you use 2002 as the base, murder-plus-agg-assault rate is up 4 percent.
We both use selective data; I’d argue Steve used it more selectively.
The numbers can get Twainesque, but they’re not useless. Scott returns, to assert that he has “seen gangs return in greater force since 2001.” (While I’m not sure of Scott’s gang-spotting ability, the numbers just don’t show it until some time in 2004.)
Again: I don’t dispute rising crime numbers in the past six to 12 months. What I continue to dispute is Scott’s original assertion that a five-year-old racial profiling study was a major contributor and that only those liberals are to blame.
Since Scott concluded with a little journalistic lecturing (criticism I appreciate), let me conclude similarly. In his response, Scott subtlety softens a claim he made in his original column – “Minneapolis businesses desperately sought law enforcement assistance this past spring, they were told to hire private security guards for their customers” – to the newer “downtown businesses begging for police assistance.”
I certainly don’t dispute businesses were clamoring for more police (though it’s not a new phenomenon – trust me – even when rates are falling). The North side probably needs ’em more, though – in the name of social justice and all that – and that’s where Minneapolis has sent most of them.
I should tip my hat to some in the Downtown business community who are willing to pay higher taxes, in the form of a special service district, for more cops. That’s enlightened self-interest, which can be partially funded from the big property-tax cuts the state enacted about the time it was cutting local government aid.
Given the lack of resources, I think the Downtown cops were damn smart to press business owners to get security guards to work more closely with transit cops and police, despite Scott’s cavalier dismissal. Minneapolis doesn’t police inside private buildings, but crime circulates there, and it’s simply responsible for all sides to work more efficiently and more intelligently.
Still, I had to laugh when Scott wrote that I shouldn’t have criticized him for his unsourced, unlinked, but stronger original claim. He thinks it was my job to call him up for leads to find HIS sources. Personal responsibility, Scott! You’re supposed to put that stuff in the original piece for ALL your readers to see!

I ask readers interesed in this debate to take a look back at what I wrote yesterday here and in the Standard column last Monday to see for themselves what I said or didn’t say, to see whether Brauer fairly characterizes what I said, and how much of what I said Brauer lets pass without dispute. With this proviso, I am happy to let Brauer have the last word on the subject, at least for the moment.


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