Happy Victims’ Week!

America loves its mothers and its veterans and its administrative assistants, but America loves its victims more. Seven times as much, in fact, as any of these—this is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Nobody loves victims more than those who make their living off the Cult of the Victim. Take, for example, Andy Kahan of the Houston Mayor’s Crime Victims Office, who loves victims so much that he wants to find as many of them as possible:

In 2006, 25 million crimes were committed in the United States; of these, 6 million were violent and 19 million were property crimes.
Keep in mind that these statistics are only for crimes that are reported. Considering that fewer than 50 percent of crimes are reported, one can easily see how prevalent crime is.

This week, remember crimes’ victims | Viewpoints, Outlook | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

The 2006 FBI Uniform Crime Reports disagree. “There were an estimated 9,983,568 property crimes in the Nation in 2006” and “an estimated 1,417,745 violent crimes occurred nationwide in 2006.” That’s about 11,401,313 crimes (property and violent) nationwide in 2006. Unless “estimated” means “with a margin of error of 119% or so”, the FBI’s numbers are wildly different than Kahan’s.

Here are the 2007 FBI numbers:

Nationwide, an estimated 1,408,337 violent crimes occurred in 2007.

In the Nation in 2007, there were an estimated 9,843,481 property crime offenses.

Maybe the FBI statistics are unreliable? Well, Kahan cites the “National Center For Victims” (does he mean the National Center for Victims of Crime?) for some of his statistics:

According to the National Center For Victims . . . One person is murdered every 31 minutes.

The NCVC, in turn, bases its “crime clock” statistics (PDF) (“One murder every 31 minutes”) in part on the FBI’s 2007 Crime in the United States.

In 2003 there were 16,503 murders and nonnegligent manslaughters (Excel file from FBI.GOV) in the U.S. (one every 31.8 minutes). In 2007, there were 15,707 (one every 33.5 minutes), or 16,929 (the number from which NCVC derives its “one every 31 minutes”) murders in the United States.

Where does Kahan get his 25 million number? Here, from the BJS, where “crimes of violence” include 2.9 million cases of “assault – simple – without injury” and 4.1 million cases of “attempted / threatened violence.” Now, someone who gets shoved by another person might technically be a “victim,” but it’s unlikely that he suffers “unimaginable pain and grief.” When everyone is a victim, the word stops meaning much at all.

But the more “victims” there are, the more work there is for the Mayor’s Crime Victims Office, the larger Kahan’s bureaucratic fiefdom, and the more people are frightened into supporting the government’s agenda of the day. “The looming fear of violent crime and the knowledge that at any time and without warning, any person can be assaulted, beaten, robbed or murdered, stirs at our country’s consciousness.”

Fearmongering aside, what of Kahan’s actual ideas?

He lauds entitlements for victims (the Victims of Crime Act), which dedicates more than $2 billion of federal convicts’ money to victims for “medical care, counseling, lost wages and funeral costs.” This is as rational a system of welfare as any that I can think of. It’s easy to sell the voters on the idea that the victim of violent crime is deserving of welfare as well as the idea that criminals (even those who committed victimless crimes) should be the ones to pay. If government funding weren’t a zero-sum game, it would be a free lunch.

Whatever you think about free lunches, Kahan’s idea that crime victims should be treated with dignity and respect by the government is laudable; victims should be treated with dignity and respect by the government because everyone should be treated with dignity and respect by the government.

But Kahan’s argument that victims’ rights should be specially protected in our constitution (“Victims’ rights are often a mere courtesy, while defendants’ rights — and rightfully so — are protected in our Constitution.”) is misguided. Most laypeople don’t know this, but The Bill of Defendants’ Rights applies to victims as well. The Bill of Rights is the basic rulebook for the powers that we all have in relation to our government.

Kahan says that nobody deserves to be a victim of a crime. If so, then nobody deserves to be falsely accused of a crime, either, but this happens regularly. Take RR, for example: the system branded him a criminal and put him in prison for six years. I’m wagering that the indignity and disrespect that any victim Kahan would care to name has suffered at the hands of the government pales in comparison to RR’s treatment in court and in prison. Should RR have been treated with dignity and respect? Absolutely.

Kahan would have said (he may have said) at the time of RR’s conviction that RR was a willing participant in the criminal justice system. He would have been wrong. Not all prosecutions are righteous, and not all “victims” are blameless. But it is, at best, fiendishly difficult for us aliquoscient humans to tell who deserves what.

If nobody deserves to be a victim of a crime, then what do we do with the abused child who grew up to be an abuser? What do we do with the victim whose brain injury changes his personality and makes him mean and impulsive and who starts breaking the law as a result? At worst, desert is a fiction. How, in such a world, do we know whether someone is a victim, whom Kahan would treat with dignity and respect, or an unvictim?

A society is only as good as it treats the least of its members. If we value dignity and respect and if dignity and respect are not too much to expect from our government, then we should expect government, through its police, its prosecutors, and its courts, to show dignity and respect toward everyone.

We’re a long way from that ideal, and Andy Kahan’s scare tactics don’t bring us any closer.


0 responses to “Happy Victims’ Week!”

  1. Mark-

    I agree Mark, honoring crime victims for one week out of 52 does seem excessive. The whole month of February is “Black History Month”, although somewhere within those 28 (or 29) days, we lump together all of our former presidents and honor them for ONE day. Did you know that President Obama named April “National Sexual Assault Prevention” month? A whole month to honor people who have had their lives torn apart by sexual violence?!?!?! Doesn’t that seem a bit much??

    We should have an “Honor a Criminal Month”. Everybody arrested in the month of May should be given a plaque and a certificate of appreciation. After all, if not for them, what on earth would you do for a living?

    • People arrested = “criminals” and complainants = “victims”?

      The uncritical ascription of accuracy to the government in criminal proceedings—is a problem. I put the error rate for filed criminal charges—charges that were filed in Harris County but should not have been—at 15 to 20 percent. 15 to 20% of people charged with crimes in this county should not have been. Are they criminals or victims? Fortunately a lot of these cases get dumped pretrial, but some sneak through, and some factually-innocent people get convicted. Criminals or victims? Possibly both.

      If Kahan’s numbers were to believed (30 million people victimized each year in the US), then on average everyone in the United States would be a victim of crime more than once every decade. Nonsense. I have talked with a lot of potential jurors, and the vast majority of those people don’t label themselves victims.

      But those who support victimocracy to turn a buck (or otherwise increase their power) would label all of us victims until we’re accused of crimes, at which time we become the enemy.

      Hey, I just remembered: someone stole my front license plate last week! I’m a victim!

      • The victimization surveys are based on 100,000 interviews distributed over the entire country. I think urban areas are over-sampled but it is not clear if urban crime hotspots are correctly sampled. The property crime rates are per household and crimes against persons are per person (I don’t know how they count cases with multiple victims).

        I agree the rates appear to be exaggerated and I would not be surprised to learn that the way incomplete and ambiguous responses are processed may tend to amplify the rates. The people who do these studies report to congress and congress does not want them to give incomplete or ambiguous answers to their questions.

        • This might explain why the FBI stats are lower (half) of the BJS stats. But doesn’t it put the lie to Kahan’s statement that “these statistics are only for crimes that are reported”?

          I’ll bet that the statement that “fewer than 50 percent of crimes are reported” is based ultimately on the disparity between the FBI numbers and the BJS numbers. Kahan would like to use the BJS numbers and double them. Be afraid! Be very afraid!

          • I noticed that my city police arrest numbers are about 25% (depends on offense type) larger than the Incident Based Reports (IBR) number for the same department listed by the State Department of Public Safety. The state DPS collects the data and does some of the data processing for the FBI. My guess is that the DPS removes charges that were not filed before compiling the IBR.

            It also appears that that arrest numbers listed by the PD are larger than bookings for the same offense type at the jail. Part of that may be because the booking data is expunged if the charge is dismissed.

            My guess is that a substantial fraction of the charges are not filed if the subject is cited, released and fails to appear. That mechanism alone could cause a large discrepancy.

            If the BJS data includes parole/probation, contempt, fail to appear & pay charges that would also result in discrepancies.

            There are a lot of booby traps in the FBI & BJS data sets.

  2. The margin of error is 3%. It’s always 3%.

    Now, the margin of error’s margin of error? That unfortunately is quite a bit higher…

  3. I studied FBI crime stats a little in college, in criminology classes. As I recall, there are many who believe those stats overrepresent crime. For instance, when surveying people about whether they were ever victims of sexual assault, the definition of sexual assault is incredibly broad – from forced sexual intercourse to unwanted touching, and even includes contact of a sexual nature that you didn’t want but didn’t object to. That would be included in the violent crimes column.

  4. What about Kahan’s victims? The falsly convited. The overcharged . The victms he has used for his poltical ambtion? . . . . Then there is the constition itself that Kahan has siuchg s disdain for and a complete lack of understanding of .

    All of those need much more than seven days a life tiime cannot fix his damage to the justice system and explotiaion of human grief and sufffering .

    Don’t worry Andy be happy it is the age of the internet and Google .Hopefully Andy will be in a TDCJ . Now that wouild be justice served

    [TDCJ EX, if you’re going to make the sort of allegations I’ve edited out, you’re going to have to provide a link or, at the very least, reveal your identity. And maybe proofread before you post.]

  5. Your philosophy major is showing.

    I agree there is a dark side to these victim groups. They have a certain edge, perhaps an anger to them that can have a pernicious effect on the system.

    I think the system works best when it has a dispassionate highly neutral world view. Maybe we need more Buddhist DA’s.

  6. I realize this post is five years old, but I am now reading it because of the link to it from the “Victimocracy because Reasons” post. I also realize that this is far from the best use of your time, but according to Google you are apparently the world’s expert on the meaning of the word “aliquoscient”. What is the meaning of this word? To make it worth your time, here’s a joke from Gilbert Gottfried:

    A man goes into a bank; he goes up to this old woman banker behind the desk.
    She goes, “Can I help you?”.
    He goes, “Yeah. I want to open a fuckin’ bank account”.
    She says, “What did you say?”.
    He says, “I wanna open a fuckin’ bank account!!”.
    She says, “You better watch your language, or I’m going to get the manager”.
    He says, “Get the manager. I wanna open a fuckin’ bank account”.
    So she goes and gets the manager; the manager storms over, and asks
    “What seems to be the trouble here?”
    and he goes “The trouble is, I wanna open a fuckin’ bank account for $800,000.00”,
    and the bank manager says “Ohh – and is this old cunt giving you a hard time?”
    — Gilbert Gottfried

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