“Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ ”
— Mark Twain, “Chapters from My Autobiography”
Whether Benjamin Disraeli, conservative prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1868 and from 1874-80, ever said or wrote anything like that is debatable.
So is whether there are only three kinds of lies.
But this is no lie:
Violent crime in the city of Charleston dropped nearly 70 percent from 2006 to 2012, and it’s fallen another 25 percent so far this year.
Yet this is true too:
William Alex Apps, age 25, was shot to death on Oct. 3 after letting two men into his truck in this city that’s so much statistically safer than it was several years ago.
According to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, the College of Charleston student was killed while taking two presumptive buyers of his pickup on a test drive after meeting them at the Hardee’s on Spring Street.
His body was found in a wooded area of Mount Pleasant after his killers allegedly dumped him there. The accused shooter and another man are charged with murder.
And despite the aforementioned reassuring stats, some College of Charleston parents are charging that their kids face rising risks downtown, citing Apps’ killing as merely their most recent evidence,.
As reported on The Post and Courier’s front page Sunday, after Apps’ death those moms and dads “took to an online bulletin board to vent their concerns and frustration with crime, sharing stories about their children and others.”
Among them were accounts of assaults and break-ins.
Nearly two dozen parents also emailed city officials about the perceived criminal menace to their offspring.
Mayor Joe Riley and Police Chief Greg Mullen countered with numbers showing the crime decline.
As Riley wrote in his response: “There is a not a safer, large city center in the State of South Carolina than Charleston and I do not believe there is a safer one in America.”
That is debatable.
This is not debatable:
Derryl Drayton, age 51, was shot to death by Charleston County sheriff’s deputies Saturday night on James Island.
That sad story hit our front pages Monday and Tuesday.
Sheriff Al Cannon defended the shooting Monday during a news conference. He said Drayton threatened to kill his sister and himself, then attacked a deputy with a knife after being shocked twice with a Taser.
On Sunday, neighbor Adrian Flood told our reporter that Drayton was shot “while he was surrendering.”
Justified force in the line of dangerous duty?
Another tragic example of police having to deal with the shortcomings of our mental health system?
A State Law Enforcement Division investigation must resolve the debate — at least the legal one — over that use of police power against Drayton, who played the organ and sang at local churches.
What’s not debatable is that statistical declines in violent crime offer scant consolation to its victims.
Meanwhile, regardless of what happened on Oct. 3 after Apps let those men into his truck in Charleston, or what happened Saturday night after those deputies answered that call for help on James Island, keep in mind that there are some very bad people in our midst.
Keep in mind too what another man who, like Twain, had a special way with words wrote long ago:
“It began with the socialist doctrine. You know their doctrine; crime is a protest against the abnormality of the social organization and nothing more, and nothing more; no other causes admitted!”
And: “Everything with them is ‘the influence of environment,’ and nothing else. Their favorite phrase!”
That was written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and rightly proclaimed by the fictional character Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin in the 1866 classic “Crime and Punishment.”
Razumikhin’s insights still ring true.
So watch out for violent criminals.
And watch out for “influence of environment” alibis.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.