NYC mayor pins crime rate spike on iPhone, iPad theft # Curious, I would put the blame for crime upon the criminals

Major crime is on the rise in New York City, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the increase is due entirely to thefts of Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, which he says are inordinately attractive to thieves.

As reported by The New York Times, Bloomberg raised the issue during Friday’s edition of his weekly morning broadcast with John Gambling on WOR radio, during which he discusses current issues in the city.

According to Bloomberg, the New York Police Department’s annual crime index – a composite statistic that tallies such felonies as murder, grand larceny, and robbery – recorded 3,484 more major crimes in 2012 than in the previous year, an increase of 3.3 per cent.

Take thefts of iPhones and iPads out of the mix, however, and you end up with a rather different picture. 3,890 more Apple products were snatched during the year than in 2011, more than enough to account for the entire increase in overall crime.

via NYC mayor pins crime rate spike on iPhone, iPad theft • The Register.

7 Replies to “NYC mayor pins crime rate spike on iPhone, iPad theft # Curious, I would put the blame for crime upon the criminals”

  1. Silly Alec…. Disaggregating a statistic to explain which elements contributed to its change seems like a good engineering approach: it allows us to focus our remediation efforts. You should be applauding, not sniping.

    1. Hi Geoff,

      Well, I’d disagree (obviously) – but not in the brittle “it’s always wrong” kind of way; sometimes the proper approach is spot optimisation, other times it’s better to go holistic.

      Let’s do a thought experiment:

      “Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the increase is due entirely to thefts of Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, which he says are inordinately attractive to thieves.”

      …with a statement like that, why not put a city-wide surcharge on iHardware in order to cover the additional cost of crime and policing they bring about?

      It would be logical to do so, but I don’t think it would be fair; why? Because I think the crime – or rather, the criminal – is the problem, not what is stolen.

      Hence when I see:

      “If you just took away the jump in Apple, we’d be down for the year,” Marc La Vorgna, the mayor’s press secretary, told the Times.

      …my inclination is to read “crime is up, but this is a way to shift responsibility onto a strawman”. To be what the Americans call “liberal” at the moment, I would like to see effort ploughed into reducing the causes of crime, by providing better education and better opportunities than are afforded by petty criminality.

      So yeah, actuaries and criminologists can be what they will, but for the guy at the top to blame Apple for producing “attractive nuisances” is not just. Mobile phones and tablets are a shift in the environment, and the Mayor carries the responsibilities for policing the environment, come what may.

      It’s his job. It’s the police’s job. They should deal with that.

      By contrast I am semi-happy to accept the “it was just a blip” argument to recategorise the 7/7 Bombings in London as a spike in European terrorism figures over the past decade – in terms of deaths per annum – and I will do that without trying to find a scapegoat like “London Public Transport presents an attractive target for Terrorists and we should factor-out transport bombings when trying to get a clear picture of terrorism”.

      For some reason hardly anyone ever seems to want a clear picture of terrorism, though occasionally you get articles that talk about “factoring out 9/11” – eg: – and the Europe stats are tiny if you “factor out” 7/7.

      Anyway: tl;dr: He should take the stats on the chin, and quietly use his own stats to strategise to improve next year’s figures.

  2. “For some reason hardly anyone ever seems to want a clear picture of terrorism…”

    My suspicion is that people have learned to stop asking. This could be for several reasons – my starter for 10, being:

    * it’s understood that “terrorism” is too woolly a term to try properly qualifying, let alone quantifying

    * defining “terrorism” in a way such that it can be qualified, sends you into a twisty, turny maze of ideological relativism, much of which is self-referential

    * …you’ll therefore be damned by someone with a different but equally valid definition, no matter what you go with

    * …and as I’ve said (but perhaps not written) elsewhere, “if you go looking for terrorists, you’ll always find some – whether they’re really there, or not”.

    Nicking someone’s iThing is, by comparison, extremely “cut and dried”.

    1. >Nicking someone’s iThing is, by comparison, extremely “cut and dried”.

      Nicking a loaf of bread is the old test for that – what if the thief is feeding a starving child, for instance? There’s grey everywhere, but I still think that “mayor carries the can / shoulders the responsibility” is important.

      1. All the stories I’ve read about this are written from a public policy perspective: the crime statistics spiked unexpectedly, let’s try to understand why, so we can figure out how to respond. Most crime is down, but one category is up. If the spike had been due to thefts from cars, one can imagine a response of increasing surveillance in parking areas; if it was pickpocketing from tourists, distribute leaflets to hotels. Since it happens to be due to theft of Apple (and ONLY Apple!) portable devices, let’s publicize this via online media since this is probably a good way to reach the relevant population. There are probably some corresponding changes in law enforcement procedures, but such things are rarely announced without good cause.

        For some reason, Alec, you insist on injecting words like “blame” and “responsibility” into this uncomplicated narrative. If this were a well-understood phenomenon, and the mayor had made obviously incorrect policy choices, it would seem appropriate to talk about “the mayor carries the can”. But your reaction seems distinctly premature.

          1. Actually, less flippantly, two things, or one thing put two ways:

            1) Excess detail can get you in trouble in other parts of life – accusations of racism and sexism can be legitimately drawn where race and gender are brought into irrelevant focus into otherwise flat stories. I’ll leave you to form your own examples, but the question is in my mind whether the “Apple” nature of the stolen hardware is germane to the story, and/or the response.

            2) Say it was cars, instead: say there was a spree of jacking BMWs across New York. Telling all the BMW drivers that their cars are being targeted by a specific gang probably won’t change very much – what are you (as a BMW driver) going to do? Stop commuting? Carry a sidearm? Check your insurance is up to date? Sue BMW for selling you a desirable car? It won’t change very much. The non-BMW SUV drivers might in fact get sloppy, feeling the heat is off them for a bit.

            Instead, telling *all* drivers that car crime is up (“especially high-value vehicles”) might be more beneficial in these circumstances, addressing the wider problem that there’s a bunch of criminals who are picking off one part of the herd now, but could switch to another real soon after.

            The thing about iPhones is that they are a mediatastic monopoly. We have the equivalent of iBMWs and a selection of less desirable devices. When the media – or, at least, El Reg – gets ahold of the story, the reporting seems to come over all “NYC iPhone OWNERS IN CRISIS!”

            Maybe LaVorgna got misquoted?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *