Friday, January 18, 2013

The Difference Between Crime Statistics And Hyperbole

I thought this story from The San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate.com was worth commenting on. The story shows the danger in making your hyperbole sound like crime statistics when you are a police official. 
In the latest head-scratching example, Police Chief Howard Jordan suggested that two warring groups were responsible for "90 percent of the violence in Oakland" in the past six or eight months. He added that "we're talking about murders, robberies and shootings." 
Of course, those numbers defied belief - especially for the many Oakland residents who had no interaction with those two groups yet were seeing the spike in crime in their neighborhoods.
Via SFGate.com 
When they dug deeper into the 90% claim, the real crime statistics didn't back up the Chief's comments. What in all likelihood happened was that their Chief was using hyperbole to speak to the level of crimes attributed to these groups. It's one thing to use a statistical reference in an informal exaggeration but when you are speaking as the Chief of Police or a crime analyst, don't be surprised if someone checks the numbers and makes you out to be less than truthful.

It's probably a good idea to avoid using statistical sounding hyperbole when talking about crime if you don't want to look foolish. All it takes is one fact checker to torpedo your credibility.

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