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Oregonian devotes lead story to 2 percent increase in crime on MAX

Today, The Oregonian ran a front-page story about the following alarming trend:

07-10 crime trend

"After two straight years of double-digit declines, crime on TriMet‘s light-rail system is on the rise again," Joseph Rose wrote.

The Associated Press picked up the news immediately.

knife"Cuts at TriMet have led to more crime along the rail lines. We’re talking about it this morning on 101 FM," wrote the local newsradio station.

"TriMet says MAX crimes increased last year," The Columbian reported in its own headline.

"Once light rail comes to Vancouver, expect gangs from Hillsboro, North/NE Portland and Gresham to ‘prospect’ Vancouver for new ‘opportunities’," one reader commented beneath the Columbian story.

Yes, it’s a dark day for public transportation in Portland: On MAX lines that were in continuous operation in 2009 and 2010…

…the number of reported crimes leapt last year from 405 to 414.

I’ll give you a moment to calm down.

Green Line trainNow, if The Oregonian had reported its figures less diligently, it might have been easy for readers and the public to come to the wrong conclusion. After all, if one were to look only at the number of crimes on the MAX system in 2009 and 2010, one might think that crime had jumped a substantial 14 percent, from 413 to 471. And this might indeed be cause for alarm. But because a new MAX line opened in late 2009, greatly increasing the size of the system, it would of course be silly and sensationalist to compare 2010 crime statistics to 2009 figures without removing the 26 rail stations that opened during 2009. No, only after you removed figures from these new stations would the 2 percent crime wave of 2010 be revealed.

Fortunately, The Oregonian dispelled any such misapprehensions by prominently mentioning this in the 16th paragraph of today’s front-page story.

(Knife photo by Bernat Casero. MAX train photo by Sam Churchill.)

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