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May 06, 2013

Feedback from The Field

It's almost enough to make one question the value of all these Awareness/Education initiatives:

The Air Force official in charge of its sexual-assault prevention program was arrested for groping, authorities said Monday.

Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, 41, was removed from his position as head of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office pending an investigation, the Air Force said.

The incident happened just after midnight Sunday when a drunken Krusinski allegedly approached the woman in a parking lot in Arlington, Va., and grabbed her breasts and buttocks, according to a police report.

Police said the woman fought off her assailant and scratches can be seen on Krusinski’s face in his mug shot. He was charged with sexual battery.

Never fear, though - Congress is right on this:

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the Armed Services Committee, said the allegations were "extremely disturbing."

"It is clear that the status quo regarding sexual assaults in the military is simply unacceptable. Next week I am going to take this issue head on by introducing a set of common sense reforms," she said...

...seemingly unfazed by her own lack of common sense. What reforms are going to keep a grown man from getting drunk and randomly grabbing women in parking lots? Locking soldiers, Marines, and airmen in their rooms after dark? Not letting them drink? Oh wait - we know why this happened, don't we? Apparently, somehow this guy just didn't understand that Congress and the military leadership have taken a *firm* stance (heh... she said... oh, nevermind) against groping complete strangers in parking lots. I mean, it's not as though there were a law against that sort of thing:

"We have to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases and take on the culture that perpetuates this kind of behavior.”

Oh well. At least he wasn't witnessing to anyone. That would have been a far more serious offense.

Posted by Cassandra at May 6, 2013 06:23 PM

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Comments

Clearly the problem is that airmen don't spend enough time in anti-harassment training. If instead of quarterly training we required them to do it 24 hours a day, we might achieve some better results.

Posted by: Grim at May 6, 2013 07:13 PM

Or they could just read my book.

Classic literature just never gets old, does it???

Posted by: Babs "A Time to Run" Boxer at May 6, 2013 07:32 PM

*Thank you!*

for throwing a well deserved rock at pols that muck w/ our military.
The obvious solution for this kind of misbehaviour is a simple application of the UCMJ . . . which, no matter what the outcome (of the article 32 investigation and subsequent article 15 hearing or courts martial) will make a notation in his service record that means:
'shall not be considered for promotion.'
Plus a good measure of public shaming . . .

Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at May 6, 2013 09:54 PM

In addition to which, to judge from the mug shot, there was a little wall-to-wall counseling issued before he even got to jail.

Posted by: Grim at May 7, 2013 07:18 AM

There is a certain poetic justice at work here. I'd laugh, except that as others have noted, it gives those idiots in Congress yet another opening for further ruining our military.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at May 7, 2013 09:02 AM

Yep, what we need is to make sexual assault/battery illegaler.

Perhaps hand-locks, and a 10 day waiting period before becoming a military officer after filling out form C2H5OH attesting to your upstanding citizenship.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 7, 2013 09:29 AM

I applaud Senator Gillibrand's bold action in taking head on the status quo of simply unacceptable misbehavior by introducing a set of common sense reforms for ___________ (pick one):

A. Congress
B. Department of State
C. Department of Justice
D. TSA
E. Department of Goldman Sachs
F. Alex Rodriguez
G. Department of Homeland Security
H. Department of Edjumacation
I. Department of Energy
J. Dr. Evil
K. Department of Health and Human Services
L. Department of Cronyism and Pandering
M. Department of the Interior
N. Department of the Offended
O. Department of Housing and Urban Outfitters
P. Pile On
Q. The Entire Kardashian Bloodline
R. Department of Agriculture
S. Department of Horticulture
T. Department of Hollywood
U. Department of Transportation
V. Department of Labor
W. Duke University (just because)
X. Department of Diversity and Diversion
Y. Department of Defense
Z. The Middle East

Posted by: spd rdr at May 7, 2013 10:54 AM

That "Pile On" feller is totally in need of serious reform.

Posted by: Babs "A Time to Run" Boxer at May 7, 2013 12:18 PM

On a serious note, if what is being reported by the Pentagon is even half right, there is some very bad business going on in our Department of Armed Diversity.

The number of reported sexual assaults rose to 3,374 last year, the Defense Department study will show, up from 3,192 in 2011. That’s the highest number of reported cases since the Pentagon began submitting annual reports to Congress on sexual assault in 2004. Including unreported cases, the Pentagon estimates 26,000 sexual assaults took place across the armed forces in 2012.

I, for one, could not have possibly envisioned this outcome when, for the sake of equality, we decided to put hormonally-charged young men and women into close contact in quarters for extended periods of time. Common sense reform is certainly the answer!

Posted by: spd rdr at May 7, 2013 01:14 PM

It's terribly un-PC of me, but I always question the accuracy of those "surveys". But in this particular case, I want to draw attention to that number. 26,000. Let's assume that it's 100% correct. According to this article (http://news.yahoo.com/women-u-military-combat-numbers-221800769.html) there are 202,400 women in the US armed forces currently. That means roughly 1 in 10 has been sexually assaulted. Let's assume that's true. I don't buy it, but let's assume it.

If we take similar studies as equally valid, then 1 in FOUR women on college campuses have been sexually assaulted. That's 150% the rate of women in the military. So it seems to me, if we take all of these surveys at face value, the military is most likely safer than college is for women. Therefor we ought to start mandating university students have mandatory sexual harassment prevention training four times a year like our troops do, and we ought to institute a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office on every college campus, and maybe, just maybe we can get the civilian rates closer to the military rates. I'll be holding my breath for THAT to happen. [/sarc]

And remember, those numbers are on college campuses dominated by leftists. Tell me again about this "military rape culture"?

Posted by: MikeD at May 8, 2013 08:48 AM

These are women in military service, right? I'd expect to see a little more than scratches on the guy's face: maybe a broken limb or two? Failing that, certainly a bit of Grim's wall-to-wall counseling. A full and frank exchange of views.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 8, 2013 09:29 AM

I have very mixed thoughts on this. My first (gut) reaction is the one Tex mentions here:

These are women in military service, right? I'd expect to see a little more than scratches on the guy's face: maybe a broken limb or two? Failing that, certainly a bit of Grim's wall-to-wall counseling. A full and frank exchange of views.

This is pretty much what I keep saying every time I write about the "epidemic" of military rape. And what really gets me is the argument that somehow, women are tough enough to fight and kill the enemy but so fragile that they can't even report being raped or sexually harassed in a structure that - with all its flaws - actually handles such reports pretty well.

And, like MikeD, I am VERY skeptical of surveys used as proxies for actual evidence of rape.

On the other hand.... (you just *knew* this was coming, didn't you?)

... there's over 30 years of watching how real people behave in the military (and watching my husband deal with investigating reports of sexual misconduct). And that experience tells me that policy that rests on theories of how people *ought* to behave - rather than how they *do* behave in the real world - are doomed to failure.

During the DADT repeal debate, I actually looked up the military's list of sexual assault/harassment/rape incidents for 2 FY. What I found was very interesting.

The number of male on male sexual assaults was shocking, given the virtual media blackout. Every year, more men are assaulted/harassed sexually (nearly always by other men) than women. But -- like women! -- they don't report it way too often.

So the lack of reporting isn't attributable to "women being women". It's more likely attributable to the shame and discomfort involved. It's different for men and women, but not totally. If anything, I suspect it's far harder for men to admit being raped or harassed sexually than it is for women.

I also think Mike's point about incidence rates is key.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2013 09:49 AM

By the way, at one of our last duty stations, a neighbor (male, officer, doctor) was arrested for drugging and raping several male Marines and sailors. Can you imagine being one of those kids? He got away with it for so long because the men were ashamed to come forward.

That infuriates me. If they'd been beaten up, would they have reacted that way? I don't know.

I can think of other such incidents over the years. Generally they don't get a lot of publicity. But they do happen. The military has messed up people (predators) in its ranks just like any other profession.

I hate the knee jerk, witch hunt atmosphere that results every time some Congresscritter gets ahold of a microphone. But I also really hate the idea of young, inexperienced men and women of both sexes being harassed and/or assaulted by their superiors or even peers. It's a fact of life everywhere (and this should temper the hysteria/histrionics) but that doesn't mean we should just dismiss the problem.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2013 09:56 AM

He got away with it for so long because the men were ashamed to come forward.

Can't speak for anyone else or make pronouncements about what would happen in large groups, but...

*I* wouldn't be calling the police, but that SOB better hope the police get to him before I do.

I wouldn't kill him. I wouldn't be that nice.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 8, 2013 11:55 AM

Folks, if that 'doctor's' identity comes out, the UCMJ is the *least* of his problems. I also greatly hope that dirt bag AF light colonel has to do his pre-trial (courts martial) detention in a USMC Brig (I had to visit a guy in one as a JO).

On the broader theme here, though yes I agree that bringing large numbers of women into the military was handled badly, basic demographics suggested (and most individual performance since then confirms) that allowing highly qualified women to join would help maintain crucial skill sets.

The problematic nature of anonomous (sp?) surveys makes it hard to measure trends accurately. Just as it is true that women (and men?) may or may not have under/over reported actual events, it is also manifestly true that the guidance provided provided with surveys *has* also changed over time.

I do *not* wish to be an apologist for the genuine bad guys, in fact IMHO one of the best deterrents is to hammer the *hell* any guy obviously guilty of this kind of behaviour. By the same token, I think it's beyond ridiculous that guys (in tanks, in foxholes, in boats, wherever those poor dumb SOB Marines get sent) are getting written up for 'R' rated girly photos.

Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at May 8, 2013 10:26 PM

America takes rape seriously. That's why we put rapists in prison. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop them from raping people. They just rape fellow prisoners. For that reason, America is the first country in history in which more men than women are raped each year.

The answer to rape -- at least in the clearest cases of real forcible rape -- must be capital punishment. Training doesn't stop it. Even prison doesn't stop it. The only thing that works is death.

Posted by: Grim at May 8, 2013 11:49 PM

I don't believe America really does take rape all that seriously, Grim. I look at things like Steubenville, or that Ohio case, and I despair. Clearly there are a fair number of people who thing of rape as 'entertainment', and over the years I've seen too many cases where the official response pretty much amounted to, *yawn*.

When I was younger, I could not understand what the big deal was about non-violent rape. And this is coming from a woman, mind you.

In my youthful estimation, it seemed as though if all the rapist wanted was sex (IOW, he wasn't deliberately trying to hurt the woman), the simplest thing in the world would be to just let him get it over with and get away from him as quickly as possible and then report it. At the time, I remember thinking that any attempt on my part to understand or predict the behavior of someone so warped wasn't going to end well.

The whole "honor" thing never impressed me, because a person who rapes another person doesn't have the power to dishonor his or her prey. Rape dishonors the rapist, not the innocent victim. We don't talk about mugging victims being "dishonored", nor do we generally talk about people who are violently attacked being dishonored. So why on earth is a woman dishonored by being attacked/overpowered by someone larger and stronger?

Now, being older and having experienced more of life, I have a far better understanding of just how awful it would be to be raped. But I still can't really get all that upset about the Air Force's advice to rape victims to use their own judgment about whether to fight back. Isn't that what we all should do? Use our own judgment?

I'm highly skeptical of some "expert" telling me how I should react to an assault he/she hasn't personally experienced. I also think that telling a rape victim she "should have" fought back only adds to her trauma.

The closest I ever came to being raped happened on a college campus and when it happened to me, I literally froze up. Not from fear, but more from stunned disbelief that this was happening to me. And that the guy who had behaved so well all night had suddenly turned into Godzilla, as though someone had flipped a light switch. I honestly wasn't the least bit afraid of the guy. I didn't have time to be.

And that was the problem - he had been so gentlemanly all evening that I was just stunned. My radar is usually pretty good, but in this instance it failed me, utterly. If one of the frat brothers from the party we'd been at had not followed us, I could have become one of those statistics. It was over so quickly that I don't know if I would have snapped out of it and fought back had things gone farther. I hope I would, but I can't be certain.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 9, 2013 12:05 PM

I don't believe America really does take rape all that seriously, Grim. I look at things like Steubenville, or that Ohio case, and I despair. Clearly there are a fair number of people who thing of rape as 'entertainment',...

To some extent, I think you are both right.

Those things in human form certainly did see the rape of that girl as entertaining as they videotaped the attack. But I don't know that I could generalize that to "a fair number of people". There have been and continue to be people who tape (and post on YouTube) assaults, beatings, thefts, and other crimes. I don't know ,that because of that, we would then say that society doesn't take those crimes seriously.

At the same time, I don't think we punish crimes like these near as severly as we should. These people are fundamentally broken. As Grim said, there is no rehabilitating them. There is no debt to be paid to society. They simply can never be trusted to be allowed in society ever again, even in prison society. They only thing to do is to remove them from society permanently: whether that be permanent solitary confinement or the death penalty.

Like a rabid dog, it is irresponsible to do anything other than putting it down.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 9, 2013 12:34 PM

to use their own judgment about whether to fight back.

I've got no problem with this. This really is about the best advice.

My problem is when the advice is "lay back and think of England".

A friend of mine from high school followed the advice to "give the bad-guy what he wants and he'll leave you alone". The bad-guy left him alone in a pool of his own blood with a gunshot to the head.

Statistically, you are safer fighting back, but statistics don't mean a thing when you are the one trial. Maybe going on the attack is the higher probability move and maybe it isn't, but that is a choice only the person in the situation can make. But you put them at a disadvantage when you try to deny them the tools to execute either strategy. One should know how to run and how to fight.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 9, 2013 12:43 PM

"...it is irresponsible to do anything other than putting it down."

Somehow I don't think, "You're short, your bellybutton sticks out too far, and you're a terrible burden on your poor mother" is gonna be much of a detriment.
Buuut, that's just me.

Posted by: Snarkammando at May 9, 2013 12:48 PM

If you write it on a bullet, then it might penetrate their thick skulls. :-)

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 9, 2013 12:54 PM

If you kill 'em, they won't learn nuthin'.

I've always thought my Pop was onto the right idea when he'd speak of how such was dealt with when he was growing up in the coal mining hills of Kentucky -- nail their *appendage* to a dead stump and hand them a butter knife before walking away -- after setting the stump on fire, of course.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at May 9, 2013 01:33 PM

If you kill 'em, they won't learn nuthin'.

My concern isn't chiefly with their education.

I don't believe America really does take rape all that seriously, Grim. I look at things like Steubenville, or that Ohio case, and I despair. Clearly there are a fair number of people who thing of rape as 'entertainment', and over the years I've seen too many cases where the official response pretty much amounted to, *yawn*.

After my recent experience watching TV news, I can't argue that the culture is even basically decent. Clearly it isn't.

Also, looking at some statistics this morning, it appears (according to the latest numbers, which aren't very recent) that rape is one of the few crimes that seems to be increasing in rate (although it's hard to say, because rape in particular often isn't reported -- thus, it may be that the rate is steady or even declining, but the number of people willing to report it is increasing).

Clearly rape of prisoners is something American culture delights in, given the frequent jokes about it on television and in the movies. Clearly rape stories are very popular on the news. And apparently rape rates may be increasing even as crime rates have declined sharply.

So you must be right: we've put a lot of rapists in jail, but the culture isn't opposed to rape. It kind of finds it exciting, I guess.

Posted by: Grim at May 9, 2013 02:37 PM

After my recent experience watching TV news, I can't argue that the culture is even basically decent. Clearly it isn't.

Well, there's your problem.

Most crime rates haven't been this low since the early 70s according to the FBI uniform crime stats. Rape has a long way to go to get to the reported levels back then (about 10/100k), but given that as underreported as it might be today, it was even moreso then. The rate has been falling since the early 90s (43/100k) to today (27/100k).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 9, 2013 03:19 PM

What I came across this morning is this HRW report, which claims a 25% increase since 2005. That seems to be right, although it may be that the numbers are small enough that you get a big bump from a small change (it looks like the absolute numbers are approx. 190,000 to approx 240,000 per year, which is still bad, but remains a very low rate once we calculate how many millions of American women there are).

Posted by: Grim at May 9, 2013 08:28 PM

Morally speaking, I don't have much of a problem with capital punishment for rape, particularly rape of a minor. But applying capital punishment to crimes other than murder does create a perverse incentive to go ahead and murder the victim -- after all, a survivor is a witness who could send you to death row, whereas murdering the victim to ensure their silence won't get you any worse punishment than the crime you just committed against them already will. "Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb," and all that.

Posted by: Matt at May 10, 2013 02:52 AM

That's still a rate of nearly 63/100k. The FBI number has never been that high, so I can only assume that this number tries to factor in non-reported cases.

This seems highly suspicious to me. I'm more than willing to grant that lots of rapes go unreported. However, I don't think it's a stretch to say that people's willingness to report it is the same if not higher than it has ever been.

And you'll have a real tough time convincing me that 67% rapes were reported in the early 90s, but that only 44% are reported today (what would be required for the total rate to be equal then-to-now given the reported figures).

Even over the last 5 years, reporting rates would have to have dropped from 49% to 44% just to stay equal. To acheive a 25% increase since 2005, the report rate would have need to fall from 63% to 44%.

That's a huge hill to climb to make that assumption.

The FBI numbers are certainly underreported, but the gap between the real number and the reported number is likely getting smaller, not larger. Combine that with a 20 year downward trend -> we got a long way to go, but we're headed in the right direction.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 10, 2013 09:38 AM

Sorry, I gotta pay attention to the details a bit better.

I thought the survey was more recent and the 190k-240k was the current point estimate, not the before an after.

Given:
190k rapes in a population of 196mm in 2005 for a "True" rate of 62/100k vice a reported rate of 32/100k.
248k rapes in a population of 302mm in 2007 for a "True" rate of 82/100k vice a reported rate of 30/100k.

Reporting rates would need to have dropped from 49% to just 36% in just 2 years.

If reporting rates had been stable, what would cause such a radical shift in reporting behavior?

If reporting rates had not been stable, why are the reported rates so stable?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 10, 2013 10:02 AM

I don't know. I encountered a similar problem last summer. You probably remember when Rep. Akin cited claims by doctors he knew to the effect that (if we read his remark charitably) pregnancy rates from rape were much lower than rates from non-rape intercourse. I wanted to know if that was actually the case or not, but the question proved to be impossible to answer. There is simply no reliable data on what rates of pregnancy from ordinary sexual intercourse really are, and very questionable numbers about rape-produced pregnancy.

There was one longitudinal study on rape-produced pregnancy that we could take as a standard, but it was unique: and the incidence of rape it implied was huge, far beyond what the FBI claims in its uniform crime reporting numbers. There's ultimately no way to be sure how much of that is a flaw with the FBI's statistics, and how much a flaw in the assumptions of the single longitudinal study.

Ultimately, these paired difficulties produced different sets of numbers were off by an order of magnitude. Rape is somewhere between twice as likely to ensure a pregnancy as non-rape intercourse, or about 90% less likely to do so. In other words, the statistics are hopeless here; I don't think anyone knows for sure what's going on.

Posted by: Grim at May 10, 2013 11:54 AM

Yes and no.

I'll certainly agree that the True rate is unknown, and by wide margins.

But when you see a 50 year trend where year-over-year changes are small (year-over-year changes in the UCR are rarely over 2/100k and the standard deviation is 0.8/100k), large single (or two year) discontinuities would be suspect. Long term trends can certainly be large, but changes come incrementally.

It seems highly unlikely that reporting rates are subject to large swings year-over-year. If that were true, the rather smooth decline in the reported rates could only be caused by the wild changes in reporting rate being balanced by nearly equal wild swings in the incidence rates but in the completely opposite direction.

I won't pretend to tell you want the true rate is, or is doing in the short term.

But a 25% increase in just two years doesn't pass the sniff test. It would be like seeing our history of presidential elections which have a long history of margins within 55-45 suddenly becoming 75-25. I can envision a scenario where it might get there, but it won't do so in one election cycle.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 10, 2013 01:26 PM

But when you see a 50 year trend where year-over-year changes are small (year-over-year changes in the UCR are rarely over 2/100k and the standard deviation is 0.8/100k), large single (or two year) discontinuities would be suspect.... But a 25% increase in just two years doesn't pass the sniff test.

The problem with that reasoning is that a bad but very stable methodology will produce a stable trend as well as a good methodology that is measuring a stable trend. But a good methodology will show a spike where there is a spike, whereas the bad but stable methodology will continue to show stability.

The UCR is a bad methodology, as I assume you know. It's flawed in almost every way possible for a statistical analysis: it compares apples to oranges even within categories, e.g., in determining what counts as "rape" for the UCR, the FBI is depending on local agencies with different standards. Some agencies classify crimes as rape simply because a rape has been reported (like the Stone Mountain District Attorney used to do); others only if there is an arrest made (which gives you a number on the order of 25% of reports); others if there is a conviction; and still others (like the old Georgia State University Police Department) go to great lengths to classify rapes as any other non-UCR type of sexual crime (sexual assault, sexual battery, terroristic threats, etc). So we don't know very much about the incidence of rape from the UCR.

What we do know is that the FBI has developed a methodology for dealing with the reports they do get that demonstrates long-term stability.

How much of that is because spikes are being hidden within the local agencies' discretion? That's entirely invisible to us. We know local police departments are sensitive to the charge that crime is increasing under their management, however, and that they have a free hand to report within very broad guidelines. It's in their interest to make sure the reported data complies with the general trend, and they have the capacity to make sure that it does. That it does, then, is not necessarily very telling about the reliability of the data.

Another way of looking at the problem is this: why shouldn't a relatively low absolute number increase by 25%? If there were only four rapes in a city 2005, and 5 in 2008, that's a 25% increase that is entirely believable.

Why wouldn't it be believable that we would see a spike in rape rates, which started from a small enough figure (thankfully less than 200K in a nation of 350,000K) that a 25% increase is wholly believable? Given the increase in economic stress in 2008 vice 2005, if you believe that stresses like losing your job or home might cause you to try to prove your personal power by forcing another person to your sexual will... well, it seems plausible enough to me.

Posted by: Grim at May 10, 2013 02:00 PM

the FBI is depending on local agencies with different standards.

Which is why I said that I don't pretend to know the true number.

But despite that issue, not every local agency changes it's methodology every year. A couple of agencies may change it this year: some to higher reporting, others to lower reporting. Another couple may change it the year after that. It would be unlikely for all of them to 1) change, 2)change in the same direction, and 3) do it at roughly the same time, to cause a break in continuity. And we see this born out. There are no big unexpected jumps in the reported rates.

Another way of looking at the problem is this: why shouldn't a relatively low absolute number increase by 25%? If there were only four rapes in a city 2005, and 5 in 2008, that's a 25% increase that is entirely believable.

The problem with this is that in that case, the increase is meaningless. It is noise, not signal.

Which has been pretty much my point. If it happened, either someone screwed up and it's meaningless, or it's noise and it's meaningless.

If it were signal, you are back to arguing that a vast number of jurisdictions all happened to change their methodologies in exactly the right way, at exactly the right time so as to counteract the jump.

I tend to think that Occam guy made a pretty decent shaving tool. :-)

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 10, 2013 02:51 PM

I'm less a fan of Occam's razor, which often tends to clip out things we really needed to understand the world. :)

...all happened to change their methodologies in exactly the right way, at exactly the right time so as to counteract the jump.

That would be highly mysterious if it weren't for the fact that there's a single easy explanation for any such changes. The agencies know what they reported last year, and they know it needs to be about the same (ideally the same or a little lower) this year. They have all these well-known tools to make sure the numbers match what they need to match, and they've got an existing figure to work from.

So assuming that keeping a spike in the rates out of the press is something these agencies care about, we ought to ordinarily assume that they make whatever adjustments are necessary to make that happen. We don't have to assume there's any outside force at all, just the regular business of slightly cooking the books -- which every local government everywhere seems to be doing all the time. It's politics as usual, as they say.

In fact, I'd think Occam would want to look for an explanation only in cases where it stopped being true. Now that would require an explanation!

Posted by: Grim at May 10, 2013 03:07 PM

We don't have to assume there's any outside force at all,

The lack of an outside force, is what I think makes it less likely. A centralized coordinated effort would make these kind of shenanigans more likely, not less.

The agencies know what they reported last year, and they know it needs to be about the same (ideally the same or a little lower) this year.

Unless they needed funding, which a crime wave might get them. And that's the problem. You would need a whole lot of jurisdictions all cooking the books spontaneously in the same direction and amount.

In any case, this would only hide a short term spike. A long term trend or a reset to a new value (think unemployment rates) would eventually show up. It has, after all, been 5 years since that data was produced. If the true rate has gone up that much and continued to grow, the artificially stabilized data would still have to rise. It would do this even if it hit a platue.

To have the reported rate continue to decline another 5 percentage points would constitute massive malpractice. While I have no doubt a few jurisdictions would do just that, everyone doing it spontaneously, again, just doesn't seem likely.

Not impossible. The sun might have just gone nova within the last 8 minutes and we haven't seen it yet. But it doesn't seem the way to bet.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at May 10, 2013 03:38 PM

That doesn't seem quite right to me, but perhaps it is differing intuitions. The UCR itself seems likely to serve the function you're wanting a centralized coordination effort to serve. (And thus it is appropriate, since you like Occam's Razor, to trim the centralized effort out.)

Say the central government said that, from now on, there would be a tax on a given activity, but left wide latitude to the individual in terms of whether they classified themselves as participating in that activity. For example, say there was a tax on gambling, but I were free to avoid the tax insofar as I classified my gambling hall as "education activities in probability theory."

Now, do I need a centralized scheme to ensure we all move the same way? Or will the invisible hand motivate all actors the same way? Well, in general I think this is how it works with cooking the books too: the incentives are what they are. A crime wave might be an incentive to get more funding (desirable from the perspective of management), but it might also result in a change of management (undesirable from the perspective of management!). On the other hand, demonstrating some success can suggest that you ought to get more funding to 'finish off the problem' -- always a happy argument to have, by comparison.

It may not be able to hide massive changes forever, but it ought to account for an ordinary broad stability even given significant local fluctuations.

Posted by: Grim at May 10, 2013 03:57 PM