Originally posted at www.theliberaloc.com
On Monday we learned that Forbes Magazine had named Santa Ana the 4th Safest City in the United States. On the same day, Congressional Quarterly released their report on the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) statistics for 2011-2012 year which showed Irvine as the 6th Safest City over all, and the Safest City with a population over 100,000. Irvine didn’t make Forbes list, and Santa Ana ranked as the 208th safest city in Congressional Quarterly. If you’re scratching your head in confusion, you’re smarter than a fifth-grader.

Humorist Evan Esar opined:
“Statistics: The only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.”

Given the reality that behind every set of statistics is a method for getting there I took a deeper look into the Forbes report. It turns out that they arrived at their ranking by mixing two sets of unrelated statistics. Specifically they combined the FBI’s UCR statistics for 2010-2011 and the traffic-fatality rate per 100,000 residents based on 2009 data, the most recent available, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The only relationship between the UCR and Traffic Safety statistics is that they both are sets of statistics. When you add in the fact that the statistics used are from two different periods in time, they’re even further unrelated.

Back to Evan Esar again:
“Statistics: The only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.”

In addition to the Forbes statistics not even passing a common sense test, their rankings are about as valuable as combining different brands of peanut butter with jelly to determine the best tasting brand of peanut butter. The only valid conclusion that can be derived is that even when mixed with jelly, penut butter still sticks to the roof of your mouth.

Comparing Santa Ana to Irvine using raw numbers is equally unreliable given the different demographics, population, and density of each city. The Uniform Crime Report numbers are simply a per capita analysis of self reported statistics. Out of context they are a meaningless measure of overall performance of city leaders and law enforcement in meeting their responsibilities for public safety. While they can tell you if you have improved relative to the previous year measured, they can’t tell you why or how.

Henry Clay, a Congressman, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator, and Secretary of State in the early 1800′s said it best.
“Statistics are no substitute for judgment.”