When a frustrated Sharpstown resident asked the Guardian Angels to come to Houston and help with the crime problem, Polimom was excited by the idea and wrote about it several times (here, and here). It is a sign of a healthy community when citizens get involved with the issues in their own neighborhoods.
At last, it seems the Angels have begun organizing their Houston chapter, but Polimom is concerned, because there seems to be a problem with how they are recruiting for members.
Earlier this week, GregsOpinion.com posted a recruitment letter received from the Houston Chapter of the Guardian Angels. In it was this [my emphasis]:
Crime is on the rise, toward an 11 year high. The homicide rate has increased 50 percent over the last year. Where does it end?
Polimom was surprised by this number, which seems rather a lot larger than has been reported, and so I queried Greg. He referred me to this article that ran in January on KPRC, which said:
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said the city’s homicide rate is up 50 percent in 2006 compared to the same time period last year. As of Jan. 17, 2006, Houston police had reported to 21 homicides. In 2005, the department reported 14 homicides as of Jan. 18.
KPRC apparently used 17 days of data to generate this article, complete with an hysterical title, and Polimom ignored it at the time as unfortunate journalistic drivel. That paragraph was not well-conceived, for precisely the reason I’m seeing now. Spin confuses people.
Polimom strongly supports the idea of community involvement in crime prevention, but I also believe there’s a right way to do things, and falsely fanning flames is more likely to bring vigilantes than civic-minded people.
If it’s true that the Guardian Angels found their 50% in the KPRC article, then Polimom feels that they need to issue a correction. Immediately. By annualizing two-week microdata, the letter is effectively spinning a statistic into an unnecessarily inflammatory lie – and that’s really not how this effort should be coming off the ground.
Polimom wrote twice to this organization about my concerns with the mis-statement, but their response was a terse “thank you for your concern”, and that they’ve “requested that [the letter] be taken down”. (!!?)
Do they intend to keep using the 50% statistic as a hyped-up scare tactic? Since their reaction was to try to hide the letter rather than respond, Polimom supposes so. What a shame.
The escalating crime situation in the city is serious enough; it doesn’t require exaggeration. If they can’t recruit honestly, they’re not who Polimom hoped they would be. I’m so disappointed.