I researched the type and extent of Onderpapegaaiberg crime incidents. Because the fence is a response to crime.
There are conflicting views about the extent of crime. I think people can agree on objective information. Agreed facts are the basis for further conversations. These conversations could be ongoing engagement between disagreeing parties.
However, both paties should share an interest in reaching agreement about the facts. Otherwise there will be continuous contestation about the facts.
The ward committee’s and local government’s behaviour suggests they are uninterested in certain facts. These are facts about the decision-making process. About the extent of crime. And, about the efficacy of the stop-and-frisk crime strategy.
If I am correct, this would be a pity. Because agreement about the facts can be a basis for further engagement. This could facilitate shared strategies. Shared strategies have a greater chance of success than unilaterally-imposed ones.
Objective information and truth value
This post refers to the the truth value of statements. Specifically, statements about decision-making processes, the nature/extent of crime and the effectiveness of stop-and-frisk.
Science as objective information
Science as objective information [www.moddb.com; (c) 2011 Union of Concerned Scientists]
Objective information is critical for deciding on the truth value of a statement. Equally important are the terms that we use in the statements. These terms define the processes that we need to verify against objective information. The statements appear as our individual creations. Nevertheless, statements are socially determined. We learnt to speak and think in social institutions. Like the family, schools, places of work, etc. Sometimes we have different opinions about what is true. Through engaging in rational arguments we can move from our own opinions to objective truth.
Conflict about objective information
I addressed questions about decision-making processes to our local government. They ignored the questions. I think that we can objectively measure crime in Onderpapegaaiberg. But a ward commitee member disagrees. This person implies that it might be impossible to grasp objective information about crime here.
The Onderpapegaaiberg ward commitee thinks it is being wise by erecting a fence. They are convinced that this will reduce crime incidents here. The committee is also convinced that apprehending ‘suspicious’ people off the streets, prevents crime here. I don’t know whether the Fence will reduce crime incidents here. I also don’t know whether stop-and-frisk reduces crime here. That is matter to be investigated and proved. We need to test the truth value of these statements scientifically. Not simply accept the commitee’s views as Gospel.
Open endedness of empirical testing
This is separate from my aesthetic, political and ethical responses to the Fence and stop-and-frisk. I simply don’t like the Fence curtailing my freedom. I also think it sends a message to our neighbours who live across the hill. It cuts us off from the beauty of nature. The Fence and stop-and-frisk undermines civil and human rights. But I am open to be proven wrong about the efects of these measures on crime and safety. I do not detect the same openness in the ward commitee and the local government.
Post 1: questions for objective information
The first post shared the Mayoral Executive Commitee’s (MAYCO’s) response to my questions. This was a non-response. Which disappointed, but did not surprise me. Their deafening silence is an admonition. They are saying, “do as we say, not as we do”. I am not alone in experiencing this. Another Onderpapegaaiberg resident objected to the Fence. This person objected to the ward councillor. And also laid a formal complaint with the municipality. Both the ward councillor and municipal official rebuffed the complaint. This preposterous arrogance is a common elite response to uncomfortable questions. They abuse our civil rights to access to information. As well as our right to administrative justice. What should we do about MAYCO’s arrogance? Until we rise up we will continue to suffer this abuse.
Post 2: objective information about response to crime
The second post addressed the Ward Commitee’s response to crime. This is to build a fence. And a stop-and-frisk strategy. (The latter means apprehending ‘suspicious’ people. It often degenerates into apprehending those who don’t fit your neighbourhood profile). In that post I described my interactions with the commitee. This took place in Onderpapgegaaiberg Stellenbosch. The issue was the fencing in of our neighbourhood. And apprehending those who don’t fit our profile. I had addressed nineteen questions to them. These aimed to clarify the reasons for the fencing. And also the procedure followed. These same questions were submitted to the MAYCO. I reported that there was mutual respect and cordiality at this meeting.
Post 3: objective information about crime
In the third post I defined the Onderpapegaaiberg crime problem. I wanted to facilitate a factual conversation about crime. I used crime statistics. If we agree on the nature and extent of a problem we can discuss differing responses to the same issue. But if we have not even clarified what the problem is, we will talk past each other. One committee member has responded.
This response shows that we are far from consensus about the facts. This member implies that the crime figures are much worse than the statistics. Because people don’t always report incidents. The member argues for first hand experience to understand the crime crisis. Which, the member points out, I don’t have. My going out on night-time policing missions won’t contribute to quantifying the problem. Specifically regarding the effectiveness of stop-and-frisk the member refers to international literature. But this is a general reference. Not a specific reference.
Stop-and-frisk – objective information as evidence
A quick search engine scan shows that stop-and-frisk in the US is controversial. One study explores differing responses from the police and communities. In 2013 a US Federal District Court ruled that the New York Police Department (NYPD) violated constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure. And discriminated against minority citizens. A 2013 New York study found the following. Only three per cent of 2,4 million stops resulted in a conviction. 0,3 per cent led to a jail sentence of more than 30 days. And 0,1 per cent led to convictions for violent crime. Two per cent of arrests led to conviction for possession of a weapon.
The same report quotes the NYPD rejecting these figures as meaningless. Because they ignore whether a stop could prevent a crime before it occurs. And because they fail to compare stop-and-frisk arrest outcomes against other scenarios’ arrest outcomes. Unfortunately the NYPD did not present its case for the preventative effectiveness, nor an analysis of other scenarios’ arrest outcomes. It is also unclear what the NYPD meant by the latter. Are they saying that about 97 per cent of their non-stop-and-frisk arrests fail to result in a conviction? This would suggest serious disfunctionality……
I therefore appeal to the ward committee member. Let’s agree that it’s possible to measure the problem. Then, please refer me to data that demonstrates the preventative efficacity of stop-and-frisk. And also to data comparing stop-and-frisk arrest outcomes to arrest outcomes from non stop-and-frisk scenarios. I commit to publishing whatever data you send me. And to articulating your argument in these columns.
Will the ward councillor respond to the 19 questions? Is the municipality going to formally register my fellow resident’s complaint? Will the ward committee member engage scientifically about crime and stop-and-frisk? I am not hopeful. Did the councillor and committee violate municipal governance protocol? It’s beginning to look like it…… We will only know if we engage with the facts in each case…
Paul Hendler, Onderpapegaaiberg, 26 August 2018.