Box Cutter Stats
Yesterday I heard a segment on WNYC on the effort to decriminalize box cutters in New York State. I guess it’s up to Governor Cuomo to sign it into law.
During the segment we hear a Latino man who tells his story: he was found by cops to be in possession of a box cutter and spent 10 days in Rikers. He works in construction and having a box cutter is literally a requirement for his job. His point was that the law made it too easy for people with box cutters to end up unfairly in jail.
It made me wonder, who actually gets arrested for possession of box cutters? I’d really like to know. I’m guessing it’s not a random selection of “people with box cutters.” Indeed I’m pretty sure this is almost never a primary reason to arrest a white person at all, man or woman. It likely only happens to people after being stopped and frisked for no particular good reason, and that’s much more likely to happen to minority men. I could be wrong but I’d like to see those stats.
It’s part of a larger statistical question that I think we should tackle: what is the racial discrepancy in arrest rates for other crimes, versus the population that actually commits those other crimes? I know for pot possession it’s extremely biased against blacks:
On the other end of the spectrum, I’d guess murder arrests are pretty equally distributed by race relative to the murdering population. But there’s all kinds of crimes in between, and I’d like some idea of how racially biased the arrests all are. In the case of box cutters, I’m guessing the bias is even stronger than for pot possession.
If w had this data, a statistician could mock up a way to “account for” racial biases in police practices for a given crime record, like we do in polling or any other kind of statistical analysis.
Not that it’s easy to collect; this is honestly some of the most difficult “ground truth” data you can imagine, almost as hard as money in politics. Still, it’s interesting to think about.