I sympathize with Joe Mokwa. There is no police chief in the country doing more to ensure that his department’s crime statistics are accurate - and available to the public. He is checking, double-checking, and triple-checking his numbers. He is posting them on the Internet. And he is doing this with a young newspaper reporter looking over his shoulder. It must be a little like having your annual physical in the doctor’s waiting room.
Still, when the stories are all written, readers will know that Joe wants what most City residents want: safe neighborhoods in a relaxed and tolerant City. And, they’ll know that Joe understands that one key to good public safety is an accurate base-line against which we can measure effective policing policies.
I want to make sure, though, that we don’t get too caught up in the numbers.
Whether the police department reported X number of rapes and Y number of other sex offenses - instead of the same overall number in different categories - matters less than the fact that any resident or visitor was the victim of violence.
And that means that we should not lose sight of the fact that police officers are only part of the criminal justice system. It is important that when criminals are convicted and sentenced, judges take into account the impact on victims and on our neighborhoods. To keep our neighborhoods safe, the people who would disrupt them must know there will be a predictable and unpleasant consequence when they commit a crime. That’s why I have asked criminologist Scott Decker to examine what happens to people convicted of crimes in our City.
I trust that Professor Decker’s statistics will get the same attention that Chief Mokwa’s do. If not, I’ll keep you posted.