Presidential Debates Ignore Issue That Affects Millions – Crime

by Diane Dimond on October 29, 2012

Crime Rates Are Down But Hardly Low


Imagine a country where citizens collectively own more than 300 million guns. It is a place where more than 14,700 thousand people were murdered in 2010. And in this country, nearly 85-thousand people were forcibly raped during that same year.

More than 6 million people are in prison or on criminal supervision. In addition, people who live in this nation endure hundreds of thousands of burglaries, robberies, aggravated assaults and thefts of their vehicles every year.

Sounds like a pretty uncivilized country doesn’t it?

Well, this is America, folks.

Neither Romney nor Obama Care to Talk Crime

These chilling statistics are our statistics. Yet, after four presidential and vice presidential debates there was barely a word said about crime and justice. Oh, there was one gun question from a woman at the Hempstead, N.Y, Town Hall debate between President Obama and Governor Romney but neither man really answered undecided voter Nina Gonzalez.

“President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” Gonzalez asked. “What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?”

There was blah-blah from both candidates but no substantive answers.

There have been no debate questions about topics parents worry about every day their children walk out the door: Drugs, gang violence, teen suicides or pregnancy, or schools and recreational activities haunted by pedophiles. Nothing was said about the scourge of mortgage or credit card fraud, identity theft, elder abuse or cyber-stalking.

No Crime Questions to Veeps Either

Now, to be fair the candidates can’t answer what they aren’t asked. While no moderator bothered to ask about crime and justice issues let’s be honest – the topics haven’t been the focus of any of the candidate’s stump speeches either. They just haven’t been a priority, yet both campaigns say they want to attract women voters. How can they fail to see that these issues go to every mother’s heart and soul – how to keep their loved ones from harm?

To be sure the economy, jobs, health care and international relations are important but those subjects have already been discussed ad nauseam. If you don’t know what the candidates think about them you simply aren’t paying attention. And, yes, crime rates in America are down from previous years but does anyone believe we live in a safe and secure country? If you do, please re-read the statistics at the top of this column.

Policy Wonk Questions Instead of Quality of Life Questions

Sometimes I wonder about the tunnel vision of journalists who cover national politics. Did they all grow up in pristine neighborhoods where there was no crime? Has their status covering presidential candidates blinded them from seeing what regular folks have to grapple with? Why do they mostly lob policy-wonk questions? Can’t just one of them ask a presidential candidate, for example, to analyze the wisdom of spending tens of billions of dollars a year on overcrowded prisons? Might our tax dollars be better spent? We don’t know what the candidates think because no one asks.

There were no follow up questions about guns after Ms. Gonzalez asked about AK-47’s. No one bothered to ask Mr. Obama about the current astronomical jump in the murder rate in his adopted home town of Chicago where there have been more than 400 murders so far this year. There were no questions to the candidates about what might be done to help this bloody American battleground or whether either man has a relief plan for cities gripped by such violence.

None of the debates delivered any satisfying answers about our country’s lousy immigration policy either. During the second debate they briefly tossed mud on each other’s past statements about the topic but neither Obama nor Romney outlined a concrete plan for what we should do with the estimated 12 million people who are in this country illegally, draining our resources and adding to our crime rate.

A Continuing Problem With No Plan

No moderator asked about relief for border states like California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas which have seen illegals overcrowd their schools and hospital emergency rooms, put a strain on social welfare programs and the judicial system. We already have enough crime in this country so offenses committed by any one group of people add to the total.

A recent congressional report concluded that of the 36,000 illegals picked up and then released (between 2006 and 2011) a number went on to commit, “murder, sex crimes, kidnapping, domestic abuse, lynching, stalking and torture,” as well as thousands of DUI’s and drug violations.

Oh, yeah. One more point. No candidate has talked about what he might do to quell the raging civil war in Mexico where drug-fueled violence has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of innocents and spills over onto U.S. soil. How about a serious plan to curb America’s appetite for the drugs that spark all this death and account for so many of our current prisoners?

No Matter What Your Issue – Vote!

This column is not an endorsement of either presidential candidate. Rather, I hope it’s a wakeup call for journalists, politicians and political parties. Today’s candidates remind me of the old fable about the Emperor with no clothes. We see clearly see through them as they spend too much time running for office and not enough time formulating strategies to address the nation’s problems.

Still, I’m going to vote on November 6 and I hope everyone reading this does too.



{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond October 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

ABQ Journal Reader DSchuhma writes:

“After our previous email exchange some months ago I was not able to determine your exact position on the gun issue. This column didn’t illuminate that much more, although I sense you lean toward being anti-gun, maybe not to the extent of banning guns, or some guns, but I would like to know if you do have a clearly outlined position about the 2nd Amendment and civilian gun ownership.
We KNOW what the Brady Bunch wants: a complete ban
on guns, starting with all semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols, starting with a permanent ban on semi-auto rifles. Please give me some idea if you can where you fit into this spectrum.
We live in rural country, mountains and trees, and own a ranch. Without some kind of guns out here we wouldn’t survive for long. If the anti-gunners were willing to give us that exemption (severely limited I’m sure with lots of government administrative hassles) it would still be unsatisfactory and totally abrogate the 2nd Amendment as far as we are concerned.
If you think crime is bad now, just wait until more rigid gun laws are instituted and enforced. Whenever you start to ban something or make it hard to get, you instantly create a black market. This is true of guns, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or whatever you want to name.
I liked your reference to the immigration “problem”. The Southwest, usually the 4 states of CA, AZ, NM, and TX, have suffered with this for years and the Administration is doing everything it can to encourage more illegals to cross over. The estimated 12 million living in the U.S. now are gradually becoming so embedded and metasticized into our country their effect will be felt forever because nobody is in favor of deporting any of them.
The so called DREAM act is a big farce, and if passed, mark my words, will lead to MORE Mexicans and other Latin Americans bringing young kids over. A law like this will eventually be made to cover all of them. The Democratic party always sees these people as democrat voters and they are mostly correct. This will add to our financial deterioration and it’s goodbye USA with no chance to ever recover from it.
Obviously the illegality of drugs has not stemmed the use of them, just like making guns illegal and prohibition of alcohol has not diminished their use. I don’t know how to convince people to stop using marijuana or meth or crack or heroin, unless we had an instant death penalty for that particular crime. That’ll never happen. I’ve talked to people whose child has been into drugs, gotten into trouble, and who do NOT want legalization on the theory the their child got into drugs and they need to be kept illegal. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
I enjoy your columns and read them most of the time, depending on subject.

Thankfully the ABQ Journal has a great stable of syndicated columnists to choose from. I’m usually not happy with the likes of Ruben Navarrette and Ruth Marcus who can’t help but advocate everything for the Hispanic cause.
Likewise the black columnists they have who advocate only for blacks. Keep up the good work. Give us some definitive things you would advocate to diminish gun crime.”


Diane Dimond October 29, 2012 at 9:43 am

Dear DSchuhma:

To be perfectly frank I don’t have a “clearly outlined” position on gun ownership in America. I wish I had a crystal ball because then we could know which Americans will be responsible owners and which might use their guns to blast through a movie theater or a university campus and commit multiple murder.

What I do know, DSchuma, is that 300 million guns (about one gun for every American) is a massive arsenal and the chances for a firearm to land in the hands of a mentally unstable person’s hand are very good.

You know, I write these columns to put crime and justice issues into perspective for folks. I want people to think outside their individual box and see the bigger picture. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I know that change won’t happen until we all start having serious and meaningful conversations. (I do think while we have plenty of gun laws more become necessary as new situations evolve – i.e. the current sales of ammunition via the internet. To my mind that should be regulated or stopped.)

Look, gun control – like immigration control – and violent crimes and overcrowded prisons are pervasive problems in America that collectively continue to cost us billions of dollars. I simply think we can do better. ~ DD


Diane Dimond October 29, 2012 at 9:46 am

ABQ Journal Reader Professor & Statistician (Ret.) Peter Bonner writes:

The above crime statistics from FBI list less than 13,000 murders, also noting nearly 300 justifiable homicides by citizens and more than that for LEOs.

It is unfortunate that you throw a bunch of numbers around, like 14,700 murders, without putting any context around them. This is the usual journalistic methodology, so no surprise you are just following the pack in your techniques.

Yes, I did find another website that will cite your figure of 14,700 murders, but who knows where the figures came from. However even if you are to use that website, it seems that you have no interest in reporting the real story, perhaps it conflicts with your agenda since you are an editorial type writer. Opinions are of course quite varied and when only minimal facts are presented, one can come up with almost anything as you obviously know. (did you know that a man with one foot in ice and the other in a fire is comfortable on average according to a statistician? That comes from Mark Twain, another journalist…..)

Back around 1990, in order to provide an example of how misleading statistics can be, I provided the sort of proof you did in the article referenced in the subject line to point out that public school teachers make more money per hour than anyone but lawyers, being sure of course to cite where my information came from (which was a paper called the Albuquerque Tribune). It conveyed about as accurate an impression as your statements.

If you wanted to do a non partisan job of accurate reporting, you certainly could have done an entirely different article. Spot statistics seldom do much justice other than sensationalism. Had you really wanted to do a justifiable article instead of your sensationalist piece, you could have written that the number of murders per year is now lower than it has ever been during the entire time that the assault weapon ban was in place. Of course, you are clearly against AK-47s so objective reporting is out of the question here. Or, had you not clearly been pro Obama, you could have pointed out that Obama’s Fast and Furious program has resulted in hundreds of deaths, including border patrol personnel. Clearly that was not your agenda either. No, you had a personal agenda that had little to do with facts, only the barest mention and then distortion. Typical journalist.

This may be the website you got your data from, inflated as it is from FBI which is not complete for the USA as they note, but who knows where this site got data, it just matches the numbers you throw around in your opinion piece.

Lets try some facts (using the above disaster center data), and see if you can possibly change your agenda to one of being a true reporter that is objective, a practically extinct breed in the USA.

More murders took place during assault weapon ban times than since the assault weapon ban has gone away.

There were more murders per 100,000 people during the assault weapon ban era than any time since it lapsed.

The population has increased yet since the ban was dropped, the sheer number of murders has decreased, meaning that the percentage of murders had dropped even more drastically, since the lapse of the assault weapon ban.

The murder rates have dropped drastically since the introduction of concealed carry laws, in fact every state that has concealed carry laws has seen murder rates decrease. (not found on the site, but an investigative reporter could actually find the dates the concealed carry laws started passing and verify).

Okay, I know you will just ignore the data and cling to your personal beliefs, but you might want to search the ABQ Journal archives for the 2 or 3 months following the Columbine murders in Colorado. Not sure of the exact date, but there was one lengthy article in there that pointed out that Tom Klebold had nearly weekly conferences with his son Dylan about what a horrible thing guns were (much as you seem to be arguing) and that somebody should do something to get guns banned. Dylan did his best to make daddy proud it seems. Folks like you in the media with your unfounded biases are doing their best to honor that commitment. The losers are the people of this country. We have Aurora, CO as your legacy.

By the way, just returned from a meeting in Australia, a place where nearly all guns are banned. Their murder rate is about half (in terms of murders per 100,000 people, the only way to compare different levels of population, sheer numbers as you prefer are useless). However their murder rate doesn’t tell the whole story. Check out something called “King Hits” in OZ. Turns out a lot of random murders are done there, but because of the way it is done, no one can prove it actually was a murder, so not listed as a ‘murder’ statistic. Add all King Hits into their murder rate, and they get even closer to our rate per 100,000 people. Big difference, they don’t have access to guns, other than a few antiques.

Another nice little fact you should check out. Look at Japan, over 80,000 people a year die from suicide. Sort of a murder by peers process.

Well, as a long time college professor type, all I can do is acquaint you with basic information, you may or may not overcome your strong bias problem. Facts are often irrelevant to reporters, a problem especially known in the USA. No wonder media distrust is so high. Maybe you could stand away from the crowd and actually be a real reporter?”


Diane Dimond October 29, 2012 at 9:57 am

Professor Bonner:

The bias you assign to reporters who use the TOTAL NUMBER of murders vs. the rate per 100,000 of the population is misplaced, I believe. While the latter formula makes sense to the mind of statisticians like yourself it is not easily read by the layman. That is why reporters and columnists write the way we do – to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers and not just to the statisticians such as yourself.
As to the FBI figures you site in the top link. I saw them. But as you may (or may not) know government figures are later updated. I spent many years of my career reporting on monthly unemployment, consumer price index and other figures. They were ALWAYS updated later. That is why I made the decision to go with the larger number of murders reported later. If this is not the formula you would use, please grant me the right to choose without ascribing some nefarious bias.
Sadly, I fear the point of this piece has been lost on you. We have massive and very real crime and justice issues in this country that we need to tackle. Instead, our politicians have engaged in highly divisive partisan bickering that has accomplished nothing.
I hope you can someday grasp the larger point here. ~ DD


Pat Wittorf October 29, 2012 at 10:57 am

As a veteran “trial watcher” and “true crime” junkie I am very familiar with the prevalence of crime in our country and I am as appalled at it as you. However, also like you, I “…don’t have a “clearly outlined” position on gun ownership in America”. I DO, however, have a firm belief that “The government that governs best…governs least.” (Thomas Jefferson). I suspect that we have enough federal laws and that it’s a matter of enforcement. Also, in support of the absence of presidential debates that avoided discussions of crime… isn’t the kind of violent crime that is the most disturbing actually something for the individual states to address and control?


Diane Dimond October 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

Yes! As regular readers of my columns know I’m all about state’s rights. But as long as the candidates were having this series of debates I really expected there would be SOME questions about the issues we all worry about on a daily basis. I used to work in Washington, at both the White House and on Capitol Hill, and even if the candidates don’t think to bring up these subjects I would have thought some of the reporters on the campaign trail would have. Color me disappointed! ~ DD


Diane Dimond October 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm

DD Web Site Reader Dr. Brian Russell writes:

“Kudos! Hey, long time no see! Kudos on noting (in your latest column) that crime has been virtually absent from the issues discussion in this campaign.
I’m a Romney guy, but I do think he missed an opportunity with the gun question in the second debate. He should’ve said that criminals, by definition, don’t follow laws, including gun laws, but that there are other things the feds can do to reduce crime. As you noted, the feds can reduce the flow of people with uncertain, sometimes violent, intentions into the country, primarily across our southern border. The feds can also

1) stop running guns to those very people in the course of ill-conceived programs like Fast and Furious;
2) better integrate the patchwork that is our national background check system for firearms purchases (that would’ve stopped or delayed the Virginia Tech shooter); and
3) reduce judges’ (federal judges’ at least) discretion to give short sentences to dangerous criminals by raising mandatory minimum sentences.

Romney should also have pointed out that, on almost that very same day, the FBI released new statistics showing that a 20-year downtrend in violent crime had reversed, with violent crime on the upswing after four years of the Obama Admin., which clearly hasn’t prioritized crime (eliminating the Drug Czar from the Cabinet, directing the D.O.J. to de-emphasize drug-crime prosecutions in favor of “treatment” for drug offenders, etc.). “


Dr. Brian Russell October 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I also addressed the issue of the number of guns in the hands of the U.S. civilian populace in a blog post following the CO movie theater massacre. If you’re interested, that’s available here:


Peter Bonner November 5, 2012 at 11:02 am

Your article should be required reading for all journalists.


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