Crime rates are down within Metro's jurisdiction for the five major categories reported to the FBI, Sheriff Doug Gillespie proudly reported Feb. 7.
Most of the drops are substantial. The drop in auto thefts is particularly good news, because those rates impact our insurance premiums.
But then there are the robberies.
Within Metro's jurisdiction, robberies are reported down 20 percent for 2011 compared to 2010 -- nearly 50 percent since 2006. Asked why, Lt. Ron Fox offered a number of reasons at the big Feb. 7 news conference: better technology, better community outreach. But he somehow neglected to mention the biggest reason.
Officers have discretion on how to charge a robbery, a category where Metro reports its own statistics. And given that the department looks better when crime statistics drop, street officers say they've gotten the word, very clearly, to fudge these numbers.
"If you don't have to make it a robbery, you're supposed to report it as a non-reportable (to the FBI) crime," one longtime Metro officer tells me. "This is no secret. They talk about it openly in briefing. They'll hold up a report and they'll go, 'I can't believe the officer charged this as a 407,' a robbery, 'when he could have changed it to petty larceny' -- a crime that doesn't have to be reported to the FBI. And this is a case where the perpetrator gave the clerk a bloody nose, which definitely means robbery was the right charge," my source continues. "So there's pressure there to make the department look good. It's political, and it's coming from upstairs."
The overall trends are still good; Metro and its officers deserve credit. You can't very well fudge the numbers on highway fatalities, where arresting reckless drivers can have a real impact. (As for busting people for going 45 mph in a 35 mph zone in broad daylight and good weather -- where there was never any engineering study to justify that speed limit in the first place? I have my doubts.)
But in categories where officers report open pressure to "write it up the right way," it would be naive to treat these numbers as gospel.
'Now is the perfect storm'
I wrote a few weeks back about the Jan. 30 Las Vegas gathering of nearly 100 county sheriffs who honor their oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
The most common topic of discussion was the National Defense Authorization Act, recently signed into law by President Barack Obama, which guts a huge segment of the Bill of Rights by allowing the government to lock up American citizens indefinitely without trial, without any chance to confront their accusers.
If I had to list the second most popular topic, it would probably be some aspect of United Nations Agenda 21, which has given the schoolmarms of the fascist left such popular buzz euphemisms as "sustainable development," but which is actually about shoving rural folk off the land under any of a thousand environmental pretexts, the long-term goal being to cluster a sharply reduced remnant of mankind into urban tenement ghettos.
One presenter at the Jan. 30 event was newsletter author Tom DeWeese (www.deweesereport.com), author of the recent book "Now Tell Me I Was Wrong," who wrote way back in 1997 "Modern day environmentalism has nothing to do with protecting the environment. Rather it is a political movement led by those who seek to control the world economy, dictate development and redistribute the world's wealth. They use the philosophical base of Karl Marx, the tactics of Adolf Hitler and the rhetoric of the Sierra Club."
Event organizer Richard Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., known for successfully challenging parts of the Brady Act in court and currently running in a GOP congressional primary against RINO Lamar Smith of Texas, estimated more than 3 percent of the sheriffs in America were in the room. Sheriffs tend to be gray-haired guys who've been around the track a few times, not young hotheads with nothing to lose by embracing such doctrines as the local nullification of federal laws found not to have been enacted "pursuant" to the Constitution -- the topic of a banquet speech by economist and historian Tom Woods of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Yet Mack tells me that even in private he didn't hear a lot of skepticism from participants -- which may be some indication of just how disastrous federal "environmental" and other policies have been to America's rural counties in recent years.
Sheriff John Lopey of Siskiyou County in Northern California spoke at the closed-to-the-public portion of the event. (Watch him declare, "We are in a fight right now for the survival of our counties. ... If we let them take our water and our land and push us off ... we'll have no quality of life," at http://tinyurl.com/7qk9mg8.)
I followed some of the federal interventions in the Siskiyou and Klamath areas on the California-Oregon border when my column ran regularly in the Siskiyou Daily News a decade ago. From shutting down the local sawmills to protect the "threatened" spotted owl to halting water flows to local farmers to protect a "threatened" sucker fish to shutting down any placer mining claim whose owners couldn't show they produced an arbitrary "living wage," the federal full-court press to bankrupt rural residents has been nothing if not creative.
Also speaking at the Las Vegas event was Sheriff Gil Gilbertson of Josephine County (Grants Pass), Ore., who argued Jan. 30 that federal interference with the ability of people to make a living in his county has become so severe that he could be required to lay off 50 to 75 percent of his staff by next fall.
When he asked the U.S. Forest Service what its agents were trying to do to miners in his county, "They said to file a Freedom of Information request. ... I asked them where in the Constitution do you get the jurisdiction to do what you're doing? ... I think they're violating the 10th Amendment," Gilbertson told the crowd.
"Now is the perfect storm, now is the time to draw a line in the sand. We're not going to have a better opportunity," he said. "I think they're closing down the resources so they can use them as collateral to borrow more money."
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and author of the novel "The Black Arrow" and "Send in the Waco Killers." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.