Secure 1776 has a small voice, and we are not Twitter fans. But we do monitor many places where public safety issues are discussed, including Twitter. We were @PaulVallas followers, until Paul Vallas blocked us. We were surprised by our blocked status. Paul Vallas is a former city budget official and he once headed Chicago Public Schools. And, yes, he ran for mayor in 2019, in the election that Lori Lightfoot ultimately won. The blocking came within a couple hours after our reply to an @PaulVallas tweet on 3 December 2021. Paul Vallas was criticizing Chicago’s low clearance rates for murders and other serious crimes. We commented that his main point was correct, the rates are low. However, we sought to clarify a statistical reality when comparing the murder clearance rate in the current year to the prior year. Apparently, providing clarity was a Twitter crime meriting blocking by Vallas.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
The Initial Paul Vallas Tweet
While with no direct public safety experience, Paul Vallas served as a public official that indirectly touched public safety issues. More recently, Vallas worked in collaboration with Chicago Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police. We commend Paul Vallas for his active engagement. We anticipate that Vallas will run again for mayor, and he has an active campaign web page. In any future campaign for mayor, he will likely highlight a public safety plan. A serious discussion of public safety issues among the next candidates for mayor will be good for Chicago.
As Vallas has become a very active public safety tweeter, the tweet in question on 3 December was not a surprise. Actually that tweet was one of several public safety tweets from Vallas last Friday. The text of the Vallas tweet read:
“CPD own data shows Mayor/Supt Brown are lying about clearance rates/violent crime success. National ave for clearance is 54%. Supt Brown says 1k arrests for carjacking. Only if you combine last 4 years. Shooting clearance @ 4%.”
Clearly, Vallas was criticizing Mayor Lightfoot and Superintendent David Brown. There is much to be concerned about relative to public safety in Chicago. If we were to simply measure the mayor and Superintendent Brown against his bold “moon shot” goal of under 300 murders a year in Chicago, the grade is not a passing one. The city’s 2021 murder count is headed above the 2020 total of 769, which was up 55.4% from 2019. The 2021 official count could reach 800 murders, and clearly there is much to critically review. The official Chicago murder count is 756, as of this post thru 5 December 2021, up 4% year-to-date from last year.
[Note to our readers, the popular “Hey Jackass” site counts deaths not in the official City of Chicago murder count. Their count as of this posting is 802 homicides. However, their count includes justifiable homicides (whether by the police or private citizens), reckless homicides, and murders on Chicago’s expressways reported under the stats for the Illinois State Police (this one there is a stronger argument that they should count in the official “Chicago count” – but they don’t .]
Our Reply Tweet
At Secure 1776, our mission seeks to foster enhanced public safety – particularly in the field of law enforcement. As part of this effort, we analyze issues impacting public safety, including data. In replying to the Paul Vallas tweet, we sought to provide some needed context and clarity regarding murder clearance rates.
The full text our reply is below. It should be noted that we concurred with what would seem to be the main point of the Vallas tweet. Murder clearance rates are low.
“Your main point is valid – clearance rates are low. But, a large block of murders (cases not between family members, intimates and known associates) take longer to solve. As such the current year stat always lags (is lower). Many cases are cleared 12to24 months after the murder.“
The Points We Were Attempting to Make:
Yes, Chicago has struggled with its murder clearance rate. CPD has acknowledged this issue. In fact, on 30 Oct 2019, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) issued a press release indicating that the department had worked with the Police Executive Research Forum on improving its investigative outcomes.
Twitter users are familiar with the fact that any one tweet is limited to just 280 characters (letters and symbols). With the space available, we sought to make two points.
- First, to quickly acknowledge, the murder clearance rate in Chicago has been low.
- Second, to help Chicagoans to understand a key limitation of the clearance statistic itself.
Since the early 1980s, the nature of murder has changed. In the 1960s, people were far more likely to be murdered by someone that they knew directly. Increasingly, murder now more often involves murder victims who are killed by strangers, or others with whom they are only loosely connected (e.g. rival gang members). As such, murder cases today, are in this key factor, more difficult to solve. This increased difficulty can take considerably more time to overcome and reach a “cleared” outcome.
In any given year, detectives across the country, particularly in major urban areas like Chicago, work on cases for many months. It is not uncommon for a murder to be cleared in the next calendar year. Such, explains the logic of the remainder of our reply tweet. The current year’s clearance rate will always look lower during the current year.
Paul Vallas included a graphic showing only 20% of Chicago’s 2021 murders cleared “so far.” That percentage will continue to increase in the months ahead, well into 2022, and even into 2023.
Why Do We Bring This Up to Our Readers?
Relative to being blocked on Twitter by another user, there is a huge element of “who cares?” Seriously, Secure 1776 does not worry much at all about Twitterland. But, we do believe there are three larger points making the issue worth mentioning to our readers.
- Our reply was not the least bit impolite. We did not, and have not here attacked Paul Vallas.
- Individuals interested in seeking public office should be slow to silence the voices of others participating in the arena of ideas – particularly the smaller voices. There are already plenty of “officials” in city, county, state, and federal government who are skilled at this approach.
- When it comes to data, each of us seeking to be well-informed citizens must be careful in drawing conclusions about what the numbers mean, and how they can change over time.
In the early 1900s, Scottish novelist Andrew Lang is reported to have made an interesting observation about drunks and lamp posts. The observation evolved over time and we use a version below to make a key point.
Politicians tend to use statistics much like a drunk uses a lamp post. More for support than illumination.
At Secure 1776, we seek to use data to illuminate and enlighten our readers, and yes, any Twitter users who may come across us.
What the heck — follow us on Twitter at @Secure1776_us. Or see our side bar for other social media options.
We are interested in your thoughts, and invite you to comment below.
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