of the second type of one-sided thinking I recently wrote about appeared recently on WAMC in a story about racial disparities in arrest rates in Burlington, VT. As I read the story, I kept asking myself, “what are the respective crime rates of blacks and whites in Burlington?” And, if they are equal, ” is this story about how racial discrimination is responsible for a greater crime rate among Blacks, as opposed their own free will?”
The first of my questions was affirmatively not answered, at least to the extent that crime rates are reflected in conviction rates, as the story stated that information was not available. The story did mention that the disparity in juvenile arrest rates was the lowest among identifiable subgroups – almost negligible – but it also stated that police basically had stopped making arrests for those types of offenses, which were handled in other ways.
So, what’s the point of this story? It’s not that Backs are arrested disproportionately to the numbers of crimes they commit, as those rates are stated not to be known. And if it is that the disparity in arrests, if it does reflect respective crime rates, must be due to some other type of or effect of discrimination, the story does not offer that hypothesis, let alone any proof to support it.
Yes, a disparity in arrest rates between Blacks and whites is a cause of concern that should be investigated. Any confirmed bias on the part of police should then be addressed. But this story does nothing more than raise the initial question, without providing further enlightenment.