One of the principal issues that Republicans in Colorado are running on for the 2022 midterms is fear over increasing crime rates. An undeniable increase in violent crimes has been accompanied by a lesser but still measurable increase in property crimes in the last several years across the nation, though still not at historic levels seen before crime levels plunged in the 1990s, has Republicans coast to coast looking for ways they can pin this complicated societal development on their political adversaries via the straightest line possible.
Apropos, Westword’s Conor McCormick-Cavanagh has a feature-length story out today on how the “crimenado” also known as the “crime tsunami” scare tactics are being rolled out in our state, backed by a report on the subject from a conservative policy “stink tank” known as the Common Sense Institute. It’s a revealing look at how this nationwide message strategy is being grafted on to Republican campaigns here in Colorado–arguing flat-out that criminal justice reforms passed in Colorado in recent years are the cause of the increase in crime the state is experiencing:
“Crime has undeniably and dramatically increased over the last decade in Colorado,” the report states. “The primary and consistent policy trend in Colorado has been to discourage the jailing of those arrested for committing crimes and to reduce the severity of punishment for those convicted. However well-intended, these recent policies must be monitored to ensure the costs from the unintended — albeit predictable — consequences do not outweigh the anticipated benefits.”
“It is simply undeniable that the legislature over the last decade or so has made it easier to decrease penalties for criminal conduct,” Brauchler says, citing the creation of a framework that allowed for the more frequent granting of personal recognizance bonds. And the uptick in crime “seems to be happening at the same time.” [Pols emphasis]
The problem big enough to drive a truck through in failed Attorney General candidate-turned AM radio provocateur George Brauchler’s argument is that the increase in crime in Colorado is in no way unique to Colorado, and that makes it extremely difficult to argue that a policy change solely affecting our state is responsible. In this case, the old saying “correlation is not causation” is backed up by the simple fact that the cause Brauchler is arguing here cannot explain rising crime rates elsewhere.
But let’s take a step back. You do accept that correlation, as the old axiom goes, is not necessarily causation–right?
“A correlation is not causation” is a “ridiculous statement,” Brauchler responds. [Pols emphasis]
That’s not what we learned in Philosophy 101! Let’s get some actual expertise in here, shall we?
“This report wouldn’t meet the research standards of a freshman term paper,” says Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, who is often on the opposite side of prosecutors like Brauchler and Morrissey when testifying at the Colorado Capitol. “I was actually pretty surprised at how shoddy this was.”
…Brauchler’s view of that research axiom is exactly “why he shouldn’t be writing research reports,” Donner suggests. [Pols emphasis] “It means whoever said that statement doesn’t understand research and shouldn’t be writing a report. It’s an aggrandized op-ed. For people who are actually serious about this, we really do know the difference between what’s coincidence, what’s correlative and what’s causal.”
At the end of January, one of the new GOP majority members of the Aurora City Council ran into an earned media debacle when she stated that the city she represents is “not safe” and that the chief of police should be fired. In response, Republican Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman was forced on the defensive, noting the nationwide increase in crime rates and calling on his City Council majority to “acknowledge” the situation “without creating an unnecessary sense of fear throughout our community.”
Mayor Coffman didn’t realize it at the time, but what he said in defense of Aurora’s reputation applies equally to the entire state of Colorado, and therefore directly undercuts the “crimenado” narrative Coffman’s fellow Republicans are trying to exploit for political advantage in this year’s midterm elections.
In both cases, truth in context is how you defeat the scare tactics.