The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, April 21, 2006

Who Is Twisting The Numbers Now? 

This time I was reading Jessica McBride having a hissy fit over a Journal Sentinel article talking about the backlog at the state crime lab. Jessica is concentrating on how the percentage of closed cases has decreased under Lautenschlager. Unfortunately, the percentages that Jessica is using to show the decrease is actually unfair. She's looking at the percentage of cases closed for each period, and saying that because the percentage went down, Peg did a bad job.

If we look at the numbers given in the Journal article (which are very poorly organized), we see the following:

There were 4,382 new DNA cases brought to the crime labs from 2003 through 2005, Bauer said. From 2000 through 2002, when Gov. Jim Doyle was attorney general, there were 3,351 new cases. During the same time periods, the number of cases involving fingerprints dropped from 3,094 to 2,800.

During Lautenschlager's three years in office, 3,561 cases, or 49.6%, were closed, compared with 3,387, or 52.6%, on Doyle's watch from 2000 through 2002.

At the end of 2002, the backlog in the DNA labs was 504 cases, compared with a backlog of 550 at the end of 2004 and 1,375 and the end of 2005.

Looking at these numbers, it's very hard to tell whether there has been improvement. The problem is that the numbers are presented by the reporter in a very confusing and mixed way. But if we crunch them, some interesting facts come out.

Although the percentage of cases closed during each period went down, the total number of cases closed went up. The problem is that there were more cases coming in. The number of total cases climbed more than 10%. If we compare the total cases closed during the two terms, we see that the total number of cases closed climbed during Peg's term by close to 5% (from 3,387 to 3,561).

The other problem is that it looks as if the number of fingerprint cases went down, while the number of DNA cases climbed dramatically. DNA cases climbed almost 24%, while the number of fingerprint cases decreased by 10.5%. The issue here is that DNA cases take much longer to process than fingerprint cases. I think the fact that there was any increase in the total number of cases closed is miraculous given those numbers.

Now then, with that said, is the backlog acceptable? Well no. If the number of cases is increasing that dramatically, then more resources are going to be needed in order to close that gap. But I don't think you can look at these numbers (which actually show improvement) and say that Peg has done a terrible job. There was improvement. One could very easily argue that it would be hard for anyone to quickly overcome such a dramatic rise in the number of DNA cases given the skill needed to properly process DNA.

It would seem obvious that Jessica is just as guilty of trying to twist the numbers in favor of her husband, as Stacy Forster is guilty of twisting them for Peg. Oh that's right... Paul Bucher is running for state Attorney General isn't he?


Yes, her husband is running, and it's been annoyingly obvious in her blog. For some reason, I still keep her in my blogroll, but I've had enough of her attacks on her opponents - Dem and Rep.

But, maybe that's just me....

  Posted at April 27, 2006 12:26 AM by Blogger Joey  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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