Monday, January 02, 2006

The Deseret News is at it again

The staff at the Deseret News clearly have a burr under their saddle when it comes to the annual number of murders in Utah. Each January they provide us with a solemn summary of every homicide victim in the state, how they died, and the various motives of the killers.

They should feel lucky to live in Utah; with only 50 homicides (or more accurately, murders/non-negligent manslaughters) in the entire state for the year 2005, this "grim toll" only requires a couple of pages. If they were the Washington Post, they'd need a entire Sunday section to cover it.

As is their wont, the staff at the DesNews confuses the number of homicides with the rate of homicides, which is the number adjusted for population. While the number of Utah homicides each year fluctuates around 50 or 60, when adjusted for population growth the homicide rate in Utah is roughly 2.5 per 100,000 population. This is only half the rate of 30 years ago and compares favorably to enlightened EUtopias such as France, Italy, and Germany. Murder rates in Utah have been declining steadily since the mid-70's, even though (or because of) the number of concealed-weapon permittees has skyrocketed since 1995.

What's more, there's a dirty secret hidden in these statistics: A disproportionate number of homicide victims in Utah are Hispanic or Native American. In other words, if you're a white Mormon your chances of dying of homicide are about the same as that of your distant cousins in Great Britain and Scandinavia.

But then if you knew that, the Deseret News wouldn't be able to scare the hell out of you, could they?


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