Plans to create a fitting memorial on the World Trade Center site are
the subject of heated public debate, but on another front, a decision has
been made and quietly announced that denies Sept. 11 victims what many
would consider an appropriate memorial.
The announcement came from the FBI regarding its
a yearly report to the nation on crime and wrongdoing, which apparently
will not include victims of Sept. 11 terrorism as "crime" victims or
even hate-crime victims.
In a way, the decision makes sense. Airplane- into-skyscraper is not
what comes to mind when we think about the country's "crime problem." But
mass murder is still murder, and the UCR even includes "explosion"
as a subcategory of homicide -- a designation that has been used for
terrorism victims in the past.
The issue is not just a philosophical one. News reports will appear in
October, when the final report is released, asserting that
increased just 3 percent from 2000 to 2001 -- not the 26-percent
increase we actually experienced. The media will follow the UCR's lead and report
that, contrary to what we all know, 2001 looked very much like 2000 in
terms of criminal violence and lawless mayhem.
Excluding the Sept. 11 victims is not based on uncertainty about the
numbers: For New York, the FBI notes there are 2,830 homicides it didn't
count "because they are statistical outliers that will affect current
and future crime trends." Although the victims are mentioned and enumerated
in the first paragraphs of the FBI's press release about the
all-important trend data -- used for reports, publications, articles and
textbooks about crime -- will exclude them. [note 1]
If the FBI had chosen to include the Sept. 11 victims, people using the
UCR - bureaucrats, students, professors, reporters and the like
have a visual reminder of the terrorist attacks whenever they
looked at the numbers. The spike in the homicide graph would become a memorial -- a
simple and odd memorial, but one with great power to engage the energies
of those reading about the nation's "crime problem."
Adding in all the World Trade Center victims would mess up the graph
showing New York's homicide rate, which, like that of the nation, had
been a gracefully declining slope. And trying to analyze some issues -- like
examining the impact of community policing on violent crime -- would be
more difficult. But since the number of Sept. 11 victims is known,
individual researchers could adjust for the impact of terrorism, after
justifying to themselves and their readers that it is necessary to do so
to make their study more meaningful.
Including the Sept. 11 victims would also be more consistent with the
way the FBI has counted previous acts of terrorism, including the first
World Trade Center bombing and the bombing of Oklahoma City's Alfred P.
Murrah Federal Building. Timothy McVeigh's 168 victims made up for a small part
of that year's 21,597 recorded murders, and the homicide rate still fell.
But the UCR recorded that murder-by-explosion victims increased from 18 in
1994 to 190 in 1995.
According to the FBI, the UCR's main objective is "to provide a reliable
set of criminal justice statistics for law enforcement administration,
operation and management." Omitting large acts of terrorism, but not the
smaller ones, is a problematic way to provide meaningful and consistent
But more to the point, why not let the graph show what criminal justice
professionals already know -- that the acts of Sept. 11 changed their
mission and jobs?
The Patriot Act expanded police powers to do intelligence gathering and
increased the military's power to police. Many police have had to take a
crash course in bioterrorism. The American Bar Association's annual
meeting included a debate and condemnation of citizens being labeled enemy
combatants. And prisons are finding the detention of immigrants to be
lucrative business. The administration and operation of criminal
justice has some significant differences between 2000 and 2001, and if the UCR
is really to provide reliable data, then it should reflect the victims of
the acts that drove the changes.
The compelling logic of acknowledging Sept 11 as crime ultimately
requires less emphasis on the mass murders being a conceptually unique
event, even while the label of 'crime' is respectful of the tremendous
loss and lingering questions about why it happened. The logic also
requires more emphasis on the rule of law and individual rights
enshrined by the Constitution. That is a very fitting memorial for the
victims as the world observes the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11.
1: Additionally, there were 7,233 aggravated assaults that
don’t count. The assaults are not included because of a “Hierarchy Rule of Summary” which requires that “only the most serious offense in an incident is reported.”
Crime Reports, 2001
servicemen and servicewomen have died in Iraq since
combat began on March 25, 2003. New York City had 596
homicides in 2003. So
Iraq is no more dangerous than NYC?