Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006
murder rate doesn't match public perception
SC Statehouse Report
8, 2006 - A mother and her four children were shot and killed
Sept. 30 in a North Charleston trailer. Two days later, Greenwood
County authorities found four dead in two apparently unrelated
And in Pennsylvania this week, a madman lined up 10 girls
against a blackboard in an Amish school and shot them. Five
died; several were wounded seriously. Then he shot himself.
Just about everywhere you turn lately, it seems violence
has gotten out of control. But experts say if you look at
statistics over time, you may be surprised to learn violent
crime in America is actually down. In South Carolina, the
murder rate essentially is flat. If adjusted for population
increases, the murder rate actually is heading down.
1998, South Carolina had 305 murders. In preliminary 2005
figures from the State Law Enforcement Division that are due
to be published later this quarter, some 315 were murdered
- - a 3 percent increase over eight years. At the same time,
the state's population grew from 3.9 million to 4.3 million
- an 11 percent increase.
"If the number [of murders] remains stable and your
state is growing, then your problem is getting smaller,"
noted Joel Best, a University of Delaware sociology and criminal
justice professor who wrote a book on random violence a few
SLED Chief Robert Stewart said this week in an interview
that violent crime dropped about 2.5 percent last year, although
the number of murders in the state grew. (For several years,
the number of murders has been about 300 annually; in 2004
the number dropped to 278, but returned to historic levels
the number of murders may not be that different, the situation
seems to be different," Stewart said.
Everywhere, people feel the same - - as if there's more violent
crime. And because it feels more random, many people worry.
Part of the reason is murders, like those in North Charleston
and Pennsylvania, seem to be more sensational. In turn, that
generates a lot of media coverage.
"That affects the consciousness of the public and gets
their attention," Stewart said.
Best said looking at statistics over time showed there really
aren't waves of violent crime. Instead, there were waves of
media coverage about the crimes. In other words, when the
media or readers become concerned about a rash of crimes,
they tend to be more sensitive to similar stories, which feed
worries about increased violence.
"We can convince ourselves there's a trend and really,
the only way to look at this is to look at the whole range
of statistics," Best said. "The idea of random violence
[increasing] is really a red herring."
But he added that for some groups of people, such as young
African-American males, violence occurs at a much greater
rate than, for example, elderly white women.
"If we were selling people homicide insurance, we wouldn't
charge everybody the same rate."
Stewart said most violent crimes - - 64 percent of murders;
76 percent of rapes and 76 percent of aggravated assaults
- - are committed by acquaintances or family members.
encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to
something in SC Statehouse Report, please
send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for
length and clarity. One submission allowed per month.
Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint.
Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:
"Everybody thinks the violent criminal is the predator
hiding in the shadows when, in fact, the majority of the time
it is, other than robberies, a family member or acquaintance,"
Stewart said. He added 16 percent of robberies are done by
friends or relatives.
If you're worried about the murder rate, there are two things
you can do to reduce your risk greatly, Best said. First,
remain celibate - which will help you avoid being killed in
domestic altercations. Second, "don't work in a business
that handles a lot of cash in the dark."
Violent crimes occur. They're horrific and they're tragic.
It's a shame they're a part of our lives. But if you look
at the numbers, they're not occurring in a much greater frequency
in general in South Carolina. And that, we hope, will help
you sleep better at night.
Next week: A look at some measures lawmakers can take
to take a bigger bite out of crime.
Send your comments to Andy Brack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
10/6: Sad but
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
10/3: Sanford criticism
Hear Gov. Sanford's "tar baby" comment. The
quality isn't great, but you can distinguish the governor's
voice and words.
To the editor:
I'm no fan of Governor Sanford...or of any other Republican
since Reagan and those of his ilk ran us moderates out of
the party...but I think the criticism concerning his recent
"tar baby" remark is unfair. I personally have fond
memories of Joel Chandler Harris' stories from my youth...in
an integrated northern community. The folk wisdom in them,
often drawn from African roots, and their rich images too,
should be seen as an example of African Americans' contribution
to our culture and our language.
Perhaps if South Carolinians of that heritage were to seriously
study and embrace the richness of their roots instead of going
about with a chip on their shoulders (Gee: I hope I didn't
just offend those with lumberjacks as their ancestors!) we
could all work together to move this state ahead.
-- Jon Heckerman, Garden City Beach, SC
Not surprised by Sanford's remark
To the editor:
Gov. Sanford referenced Mustafa Ataturk as one of his personal
heroes during his first State of the State address. I almost
wrecked my car driving back from a meeting in Charleston listening
to the speech. I thought he'd lost his mind..little did I
Ataturk...who in this state know about Ataturk. The only
persons in South Carolina likely to recognize the name are
of Greek or Armenian descent and were no doubt insulted.
Sanford may have an MBA and he may read a lot. He is not
well read nor well educated. He most certainly lacks empathy
for most South Carolinians who don't happen to own beach houses.
So I'm not surprised by "tar baby" and his not getting
-- Lynn Bailey, Columbia, SC
Rant on Brack trying to control thought
To the editor:
Editor's note: This comment was shortened to comply with
our Feedback policy. Spelling and grammatical errors have
been left untouched.
In todays Item newspaper your biased column appears next
to another liberal who wants to control our every thought
and word, Eugene Robinson. The two of you make a scary team
and explain why the democrat party cannot win National elections.
The only places where thought and speech control can elect
is in the poor and ignorant areas of this nation . AS you
know the poorer counties in South Carolina remain poor and
ignorant today just as they were 100 years ago. The reason
is because their citizens accept people like you and Eugene
telling then how and what to think. Thus they never rise above
the level their oppressors has assigned them.
Now in your disgraceful article Mr. Brack you list more words
and thoughts that do not meet with the radical liberal agenda.
Lets see now TAR BABY , which of these two words do you want
to eliminate ? , Tar or baby . liberals have been in favor
of killing life in the womb for many, many years. In my entire
life I never associated the term "tar baby" with
the black race. I do remember when "negro' or "colured"
was used and accepted by all until a wild eyed radical decided
it is racist. If your kind keeps delisting words you do not
approve of we will need to use only sign language to communicate.
This will not happen of course since clear minded folks out
number your kind. If it should come down to sign language
I reserve one finger for your kind regardless of race.
-- Lew Richards, Manning , S.C.
Taken aback by Sanford's remark
To the editor:
I have been quite supportinve of Gov Sanford and the majority
of his policies to change South Carolina into a viable force
with other states in education and economic issues. I am black,
with a lot of republican friends and I must admit that I was
taken aback by that remark also..Gov Sanford, Sir, I know
that you are a well read man and that you choose your words
very wisely most of the time, but please refrain from using
such denegrating vocabulary in the future..It may sound mild
and non-hurting to whites and they think nothing of it as
just a slang to mean something else as you intended, but the
fact remains it immediately made the majority of those people
on the board remember that "tar baby" is a meaning
that does not put the african-american citizens of this country
and great state in a highly demeaning way. I am on Congressman'
Wilson's Minority Affairs Committee and he is one of the finest
policitian i have ever met in my life and I support him 150%.
If he had uttered such a phrase I would be telling him the
same thing only personally..Republicans always keep saying
that they would like to have more black support and to have
more blacks support them but sometimes some go out of your
ways to be insensitive in your remarks, both personally and
politically and unintentionally draw lines in the sand again
and again (some intentionally, most not intentionally)..I
accept your reason and i understand your remarks, just not
the inclusion of tar-baby...a better choice of defining your
thoughts to describe what you mean is needed for the future.
-- Jimmy Mackey, Beaufort, S.C.
best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning
paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive
news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and
TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed
with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more.
Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less
for business subscribers. More: SC
How you can subscribe to the full edition
of the report
The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the
free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per
month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information
that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.
Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse
Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems
with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."
In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get:
- Hot issue
-- an early peek at weekly commentary on something really
big. Last year, we continually beat other news organizations
in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget
cuts to wetlands proposals.
- Agenda -- a weekly forecast of
the coming week's floor agenda
- Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes
look at what's really going on in the General Assembly
- McLemore's World -- an early view
of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.
- Tally Sheet -- a weekly review
of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in
- Blogroll -- a weekly summary of
the best of South Carolina political blogs.
- Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs
Down of major political/policy events for the week.
- Calendar -- a weekly list of major
meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.
- Megaphone -- a quote of the week
that you'll find illuminating.
To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at:
South Carolina Statehouse Report
Publisher: Andy Brack
Emeritus: Jerry Ausband
Editor: Betsy Brack
Phone: 843.670.3996 · Fax: 843.722.9887
Subscription or sponsorship Inquiries: email@example.com
Have an event for the SC Statehouse Report calendar?
E-mail details to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or fax to above number.