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Crime Statistics

Frat Boys Aren't Included

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 25, 1996.

A most interesting episode of Nightline Tuesday night inquired into the theory that local news stations across the nation emphasize - and therefore distort - crime in black neighborhoods. There were various opinions that hardly ran the gamut, but did rationally entertain the problem.

One thing I have noticed is how little crime is actually reported in the Boulder media. I am in a half-way house and nearly at the two year anniversary of entering jail. The jail and half-way house burst with bodies, but you do not see coverage in the local paper that would suggest we have about five hundred people in jail, in some sort of detention. I have often heard the prolonged progress of sirens at night and looked in vain for some suggestion of activity in the newspapers.

Most of the people in jail or detention, it seems, are there due to alcohol and most of them are white. That is a problem in Boulder’s journalistic circles.

It doesn’t require actual, overt prejudice to tilt news coverage. Middle class whites don’t want to read about their drunken children. But a drunken black from North Carolina or California, here to play athletics at the University, strangely is always fair play, even though he might be a third stringer and hardly a celebrity. The silent censorship exerted by local advertisers is too blatant and powerful to be denied. And Boulder is liberal. Imagine what ingrained bigotry a city like Philadelphia produces w/o effect.

It is a fact, like it or not, that a chronically drunk driver is little different than an Arab freedom fighter firing his gun in celebration. Eventually, he will kill someone other than himself. When the bars close in Boulder - or Commerce City or anywhere - virtually every vehicle then on the road is drunk, and most of them are white and middle class. A gunshot in the night will get the full treatment, even if it hit nothing. But the tailgate party drunks around Folsom or getting into cars on the Hill at 1:30am don’t get any coverage unless it’s in the form of some concerned merchant story. If the merchants were concerned about anything other that their pockets, they’d have the streets blocked off and paddy wagons loaded - every night.

But the majority of arrests would be those merchant’s white customers. Why bother them? Surely there’s a drunken brawl between Hispanic migrant workers in Longmont, or a race issue on campus to cover. Or, best, a minority murderer killed in Greeley. Prolonged coverage over whether young white girls currently feel safe. Yet the drunks are the real threats. Is it prejudice, hysteria, or stupidity? I can’t say, but it is an inaccurate picture of public safety.