The tough-on-crime folks can crow all they want, we’re already awake. Recent reports that showed an uptick in violent crime in Oklahoma have been feeding a narrative that is grounded more in fear-mongering that actual data.

Some reports reveal crime statistics that reveal an increase in assaults and sexual violence from 2018 over the previous year, and other reports show Oklahoma above the national average in many categories. With the reports on hand, the ‘do the crime, do the time’ crowd would like to you to trust them when they say this is rooted in the passage of State Question 780, which changed some drug possession and burglary charges from felonies to misdemeanors.

To believe 780 is responsible for an increase in violent crime, you would have to believe that:

• Rapes and assaults are up simply because fewer misdemeanants are in prison.

• Most of the new crime being committed is from drug-seeking behavior.

• Crime rates don’t fluctuate yearly.

• Oklahoma somehow produces more people who deserve to be in prison at higher rate than anywhere else on Earth.

In the case of sexual assault, law enforcement in most instances maintain the increase in cases stems from the increase in reporting. What if the same is true of domestic assault?

With only one or two years of data, do we know that the people assaulting other people are mostly people who had been released from prison, or missed an earlier felony charge in the 18-month span between 780 and the assaults that were reported through the end of 2018? There’s some missing data there.

Columnist Steve Fair, who wanted to roll back State Questions 780 and 781, actually pointed out that Oklahoma’s robbery rate was lower than the national average. Here in Payne County, felony charges did fall as 780 turned some petty crimes into misdemeanors.

Surely, that would have meant a swell in misdemeanor charges. That hasn’t been the case.

Through Oct. 17, there were 1,429 misdemeanors charged. Through Oct. 16, 2018, there were 1,410. Through Oct. 16, 2017, (Before 780) there were 1,597 misdemeanors charged.

If you really want us to believe 780 leads to an increase in crime, you’ll have to show us the data.

It’s easy to manipulate emotions. It’s much harder to look at crime through the macro lens, which is what we have to do here. Consider that having more people at home and in the workforce, will strengthen the next generation. Maybe instead of growing up in poverty in one- or no-parent households, those children will grow up in a more steady environment – yes even if mom or dad had too much weed on them during a traffic stop – and learn the value of a second chance.

We had all the proof we needed that Oklahoma’s approach the crime and punishment wasn’t working. We’re looking for longterm success. Scary rhetoric isn’t enough to change that.

— Stillwater News Press

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