Friday, August 21, 2015

Recidivism in Whatcom County Jail Bookings Records : 1/1/2011 - 7/1/2015

29,637 Bookings for Whatcom County Jail covering the 4.5 year period from 1/1/2011 to 7/1/2015. The vertical axis represents 17,256 unique names. 5,314 of those unique names had multiple bookings for the period with a range of 2  -  22 bookings per individual. Each unique name receives a random color for their bookings. See an animation of this chart here. See R code here. See notes on data/methodology at end. Click on the Charts to enlarge. 

This post discusses recidivism in Whatcom County jail. Recidivism is a primary concern for law and justice and  citizens. The bottom line on 'recidivism' is this: so many re-offend at such high rates that some criminology professors fundamentally doubt whether imprisonment has any significant effect on prohibiting crime.  Literature on this subject is abundant[1,2,3,4].  Some of us have come to the conclusion that imprisonment itself is the primary cause of recidivism; a counter intuitive analysis that has little political chance of wide scale adoption. I am looking at 'booking recidivism' or booking 'return buckets' in Whatcom County over the 4.5 year period from 1/1/2011 to 7/1/2015. (e.g. How many times a user is "booked" in that period.  For this definition of recidivism, I am counting multiple bookings or returns to jail per individual (user).   These aren't necessarily convictions. What I describe are 'return buckets' to our jail. Here are granular views at the 'return buckets' by user booking counts for these 4.5 years.  Click to enlarge chart.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Predicting Crime, Day of Rembrance, Bellingham Racial Justice Commission

Crime and justice issues on board for Sunday and Monday:

There will be a day of remembrance for Mike Brown tomorrow (Sunday) at 5:30 in Cornwall Park. This was also announced in the Herald.

On August 10th, Monday the Bellingham Police will have a hearing on the use of Bair Analytics predictive software. There will be a rally created by the Bellingham Racial Justice Commmission beforehand.

I've created some graphs and tables from 89 days of data from COB summaries. Predictive software uses existing data to predict where crime will happen. There has been some lively discussion about the use of predictive software and racial profiling. Here are the articles I found most interesting in researching predictive policing:

Below is a three month look at crime high points and locations in Bellingham. There were 5533 Offense summaries for those 89 days. I created some tables and charts to summarize that volume. Code for this post is here. Click on charts to enlarge. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Race and Incarceration in Whatcom County and WA.

"The hypersegregation of the black poor in ghetto communities has made the roundup easy. Confined to ghetto areas and lacking political power, the black poor are convenient targets. ... The enduring racial isolation of the ghetto poor has made them uniquely vulnerable in the War on Drugs. What happens to them does not directly affect—and is scarcely noticed by—the privileged beyond the ghetto’s invisible walls. Thus it is here, in the poverty-stricken, racially segregated ghettos, where the War on Poverty has been abandoned and factories have disappeared, that the drug war has been waged with the greatest ferocity. SWAT teams are deployed here; buy-and-bust operations are concentrated here; drug raids of apartment buildings occur here; stop-and-frisk operations occur on the streets here. Black and brown youth are the primary targets.[emphasis added -RMF]"  -Michelle Alexander "The New Jim Crow" 

Is Whatcom county a racist county in a racist state? I won't pretend to have the complete answer in this post.  I do know that something Bellingham and Lynden (two of Whatcom County's biggest cities) have in common, is that you can often spend the whole day downtown in either without ever noticing a person of color! And that makes it somehow very different from where my wife and I grew up in Oakland, CA.  This post will examine the county jails of WA and question whether or not racial bias is a part of Whatcom County and Washington's law and justice system.  Below is a table of WA state jails and their counts of  Total Population, Average Daily Jail Populations of 'People of Color'  (not white) and the all white populations of those 39 WA counties. City and regional jail data is appended  with no additional population data.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

An Analysis of Whatcom County Jail Press Releases: Word Counts, Word Clouds, Relational Graphs,Criminogenic Cycles

Above: A word cloud capturing the most frequent terms (greater than 1000 mentions) of the The Whatcom County Jail Press Releases for  the past 4.5 years. In a word cloud analysis, a larger font equals higher term frequency. Click to enlarge all charts.

The data below in this first part of this post comes from the collected booking records of the Whatcom County Inmate Database: Press Releases. I looked at the collected records of  previous 4.5 years of this data to help me answer these questions:

  • Why are citizens being booked into Whatcom County Jail?
  • Who is being booked into Whatcom County Jail?

Bookings are not necessarily  representative of arrests nor convictions. Conceptually, bookings are the subset in between these three terms such that Arrests > Bookings > Convictions. I used simple term counting with some normalization, text mining, word cloud analysis, and graph analysis to show relationships and frequencies. My web query routines weren't perfect enough to prevent some small amount of missing data.  The terms used to describe the data and the format of those terms varied some from year to year as well. A sample of the collected raw data  for 4.5 years looks like this:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Update your new address at by Monday! "Flux" in the Voter Database

I have created this post in part as a type of public service announcement.  Monday is the last day to update or register electronically to vote at  Washington has a somewhat unique and perhaps uniquely convenient solution to voter registration and voting: all electronic registration coupled with vote by mail ballots.  If you want to vote in the primary election in Whatcom County (or any other WA County) you must have a registration in good standing. You can check this at and it is an excellent idea to do so whether you have moved or not.

Every week voters are removed and added to the Washington voter rolls by your local election office. Every quarter this process is specifically repeated in coordination with a PEW States initiative in Olympia called  ERIC[1,2,3,4,5,6].

There are three status code for any voter on Washington voter rolls: (A) "Active", (I) "Inactive", (C) "Cancelled".  The status you want is (A) "Active".  If you move and a ballot is returned "undeliverable", the election office will make some attempt with the information they have to contact you. If they can't find you (hey, you moved!), then onto the (I) "Inactive" list you go.  If you miss a couple of elections without voting (for example), then onto the (C) "Cancelled" list you go.  If you have just moved, you can solve this problem by logging into and updating your address. This will re-activate your voting status to (A) "Active". There are a number of other reasons why your status could end up (I) "Inactive" or (C) "Cancelled", but for most, the path to (I) or (C) is moving and not remembering to update The path back to (A) "Active" is to logon to and update your registration to your correct address. If you have any problems at all with this process in Whatcom County, please call the Elections Office.

If you are a student who moves home for the summer, change your address to your home when you move, then vote in your home county or state primary. When you return in the fall, change your address back when you find your new place in Bellingham or Whatcom County.  Update your address at as soon as you move to make sure you can vote for both the primary in the summer and general election in the fall! There, I mentioned eight times. Okay, the PSA part of this blog is over. Math, numbers and electoral theory (currently under construction) continue after the break...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jail Roster Booking Chart Data for 2015

Whatcom County Jail Roster Bookings categorized by arbitrary search term from Jaunary 1 to June 19 2015.
Last updated 5:15 AM 6/24/2015 -RMF

Wednesday this week the Bellingham City Club will feature three speakers on the topic: 
"Are we building a jail for the future or are we stuck in the past?". Today and tonight's agenda for the Whatcom County Council includes Jail Items. Below the break are some charts that look at data from Whatcom County Jail Roster press releases for 2015 from January 1st through June 19.  Clearly assault,  DUI,  DWLS, and violations (usually of protective orders) drive the volume of most charges for jail bookings in Whatcom County. 

The charts and data are subject to revision which I will note. This period (January 1st throught June 19, 2015) covers 6217 separate charged crimes from 333 unique crimes types in 72 unique 'Court' Codes.  6217 separate crimes were charged in 3102 separate 'bookings' against 2603 unique (individuals) IDs. 409 individuals were booked more than once in this period. 32 (individuals) IDs were booked more than thrice. Click on the charts to Enlarge. R 3.2 code with some output is here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

2013 General Fund State Revenues and Expenditures

County E2008 E2013 R2008 R2013 R13-E13 R08-E08 R13-R08 E13-E08 R08_R13% E08_E13%
King 3771.5 4281.4 6116.9 6575.2 2293.8 2345.4 458.3 509.9 7.0 11.9
Pierce 1826.7 1946.7 1457.3 1535.4 -411.3 -369.4 78.1 120.0 5.1 6.2
Snohomish 1414.6 1590.5 1435.8 1525.0 -65.5 21.2 89.2 175.9 5.8 11.1
Spokane 1177.3 1187.0 872.4 940.8 -246.2 -304.9 68.4 9.7 7.3 0.8
Clark 911.4 1067.3 655.6 697.8 -369.5 -255.8 42.2 155.9 6.0 14.6
Thurston 534.3 595.4 464.2 492.1 -103.3 -70.1 27.9 61.1 5.7 10.3
Whatcom 403.8 440.6 416.5 470.3 29.7 12.7 53.8 36.8 11.4 8.4
Kitsap 526.2 550.3 412.1 420.7 -129.6 -114.1 8.6 24.1 2.0 4.4
Benton 405.6 454.0 319.6 412.6 -41.4 -86.0 93.0 48.4 22.5 10.7

Top Ten WA Counties: State Revenues and Expenses for the General Fund ($millions). Only King and Whatcom county return more GF than they expense.  Eight of the top ten revenue counties run a deficit of $1.36B essentially 'paid for' by King County's $2.3B surplus revenue. King County generates more GF-S revenue than the next nine WA counties combined.

This piece examines one (big) part of the complicated picture of state and county revenues and expenditures.  Not all county revenues and expenditure cycle through the state. $15.8B GF-S  (General Fund - State) return to the state as revenues. Most counties receive more than their revenue to expend. The charts below (coupled with tables in the end notes) help us see which counties return more GF-S revenue than GF-S expenditures. In the series of pie charts below, we can see GF-S expenditures by category and the percentage the top counties expend for those categories. The second largest category ("All Other Agencies/Debt Service") is also the least granular.  Some of the agencies and funding included in "All Other Agencies/Debt Service" can be found in a list of 'GF-S Categories' in the end notes. The OFM link for this data is here. R Code for the charts is here. Click to enlarge charts.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Cosmos Review

"A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars—billions upon billions of stars."
-Carl Sagan
Weeks after it had opened, we finally wandered the whole family into Jamison Rogayan and Cinnamon Berg's new venture: The Cosmos Bistro. Because, our now vigourous three  and 1/2 year old boy runs our life, we all sat at the counter with him.  I had no idea that Jamison was a space and astronomy buff. It didn't occur to me that there would be a Star Wars Falcon in the top corner of the very high ceilinged, very spaciously remodeled bistro at 1151 North State Street in Bellingham, WA.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thoughts on a Jail Part IV: WA Population Growth, Prosperity and Crime, Police and Community

Above: Population Growth of WA counties: 1990 - 2013. Click to Enlarge.
Below: Top ten cities for total growth (diff) 2010 -  2014. Sources:
County Jurisdiction X2010 X2014 rate diff
King Kirkland 48,787 82,590 40.93% 33,803
King Seattle 608,660 640,500 4.97% 31,840
King Kent 92,411 121,400 23.88% 28,989
King Burien 33,313 48,240 30.94% 14,927
King Bellevue 122,363 134,400 8.96% 12,037
Franklin Pasco 59,781 67,770 11.79% 7,989
King Bothell 17,090 24,610 30.56% 7,520
King Renton 90,927 97,130 6.39% 6,203
Clark Vancouver 161,791 167,400 3.35% 5,609

Before I start with a statistical piece on the growing population of WA, I want to tell a story; a violent story. In fact, this was the last violent episode we had to endure/know/witness as my wife and I were leaving Oakland for Bellingham.  Although it was hardly the most violent memory or story I can tell, it was a story that meant something to me years later.  We were packing that day. Preparing for a huge move and change in our lives that would eventually take us to where we are now: proud but exhausted Bellingham parents and homeowners.  In Oakland, CA there is a considerable amount of gun violence and death. Generally, Oakland's population of 400K compares in yearly homicides with those murdered in WA state which currently has a population of about 7M.  That level of crime has widespread socioeconomic effects and changes the nature of law and justice in your city and county.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thoughts on a Jail Part III : Letter to Whatcom County Council

Dear Council Members

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the subject of Jail building in Whatcom County.  I have been data blogging on crime,arrests and jail capacity statistics since meeting Joy Gilfilen and Irene Morgan three weeks ago @ . I have four points I would like to make:

(1) Law and Justice spending is a significant cost to city and county budgets.
(2) Some analysis shows that public safety is increased with public prosperity.
(3) An analysis of historical, current crime and prosperity of existing cities can provides us with templates for our own growth in Bellingham and Whatcom County.
(4) Data analysis is probably an underutilized tool for small counties that could help with planning and modeling the economic consequences of crime, growth and prosperity.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Thoughts About a New Jail Part II: Select Crime statistics for WA and Select Counties

The twenty year slide in Violent and Property crime in King County. King County (2014 pop = 2M) dominates WA trends in crime by virtue of its size and prosperity. Click to Enlarge.
RMF:  "I do not understand.  How does my state know how to spend my tax dollars if no one at the state level analyzes law enforcement data?"
OFM Analyst : "County and city law enforcement organizations receive their funding locally, not from the state.  Each county/city most likely analyzes their own data to determine what areas to focus on."   from an email thread of author with OFM.
"Jail planning is not based upon the strict application of a numerical standard contained in the existing LOS. Therefore, the numerical standard would be replaced with new Policy 4D-2, which supports construction of a new jail to safely provide needed corrections facilities over the 20-year planning period."  from draft  Chapter 4, Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan for Capital Facilities , April 10, 2015. [Bold for these quotes added by author for emphasis -RMF]

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Thoughts About a New Jail Part I: Selected Violent Crime, Arrest, Jail Statistics for WA and selected cities

Recently, we have a debate going on in Bellingham and Whatcom County over whether to finance a new jail and what kind of new jail and offender treatment programs to finance. Bellingham and Whatcom County WA are constituted by unlikely combinations of dreamers, humanists, entrepreneurs, individualists, old boys, and (sometimes) schemers. Nobody really agrees upon much politically, which makes every important political decision a big discussion. And we attract people (myself included) who like to discuss. 

Clearly, the population and the various city councils want more discussion on whether or not to use the last 2/10s  of 1% of our state allotted fire and safety sales tax revenue  to build the new jail. There are lots of opinions and lots of people complaining that they don't have enough data. In this blog post, I try to provide more data.  Personally, I am confused as to whether support a new jail or not. I think the old one really does needs to be replaced as a safety issue. Whether funding for Restorative Justice as advocated in Whatcom County by the Reentry Coalition will work to stop crime, I do not know.  But I believe the principles of Restorative Justice are worth considering and I am very impressed by the idealism and compassion of the the advocates of the Restorative Justice movement.

For years, my native city of Oakland, CA has poured hundreds of millions of dollars each year from their general fund and other monies into police department and city jail; fighting what is often a pitched war against narcotics trafficking and the social results of narcotics trafficking. The battle never seems to have  a winner, just brief respites.  A brief respite in Oakland ( a city of 400K ) means 60 - 80 homicides a year. Full pitched casualties in a year of battle delineated by automatic gunfire means 150 - 160 homicides.  To give you some example of what that war feels like to civilians: In 2013, the state of WA (pop then 6.8M) had only 129 homicides.  When you grow up inside such a war, you hear gunfire on a weekly basis. You know what it is like to be shot at with automatic gunfire.  You see guns, drugs, and gang presences frequently enough to know where to walk and at what risk level when. People you know personally  or just those in your neighborhood get shot and die.

Jailing people is not very .... Bellingham. We are an educated, liberal community with progressive, humanist, and sympathetic dreams and pretensions. We have the longest running anti-war protest in the country. We believe in moving toward the light.  And, in truth, even though I am grizzled survivor of an east Oakland youth, I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe in searching for the light as well. It's an easy call to ask for more police and jails.  Sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes it just militarizes society and engages the cartels. Here are some of my (ambivalent) thoughts on this issue and results of about one week of  my spare time in data analysis. I was rushed for time before tonight's council meeting so some error corrections and additions may be necessary. R Code is here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Children in Poverty and Homelessness in Whatcom County School Districts and WA state: A Look at the Numbers and Sources

"It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex."
Article IX Section 1 SECTION 1 PREAMBLE.
Constitution of the State of Washington

Click to Enlarge.

DName Tot_District_ _Pop District_Enrollment ChildinDistrict ChildPov OSPI_K-12 Homeless PCT_Poverty PCT_Homeless
Bellingham 104767 11136 12340 1908 471 15.46% 4.23%
Blaine 16388 2120 2380 420 49 17.65% 2.31%
Concrete 4921 542 717 168 26 23.43% 4.80%
Ferndale 31180 5174 5885 912 126 15.50% 2.44%
Lynden 18863 2842 3612 397 58 10.99% 2.04%
Meridian 10032 1790 1630 249 41 15.28% 2.29%
MountBaker 14724 1880 2573 515 52 20.02% 2.77%
NooksackValley 10317 1574 1996 304 49 15.23% 3.11%
Sedro-Woolley 26646 4305 4491 745 173 16.59% 4.02%
Totals 237,838 31,363 35,624 5,618 1,045 15.77% 3.33%
The chart and table above aggregate 2013 SAIPE Poverty and Income Data with 2013-2014 (School Year) OSPI Student Homeless Data for the 9 School Districts that are in whole or in part inside Whatcom County. Zoom your browser window to enlarge this table.
Some statistical projects are gratifying to work on . This one really was not.  Poverty brackets are exceptionally low household income numbers.  The federal poverty rate for a family of four with two children is less than $24K.  Although the largest school district (Bellingham) in Whatcom County has the highest number school children in poverty in total, the percentage of children in poverty in the more rural school districts is much higher. The data in the post below comes from SAIPE or Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates and OSPI  Homeless Student Data Report for 2013 and 2014.  In the charts below, I detail homelessness and poverty for Whatcom County school children based on SAIPE school district estimates. Code for the charts  can be found here and here.

As a data blogger, I can't vouch for the integrity of the data collections I analyze nor can I provide solutions for the tragedy  of homelessness and poverty it exposes in our county. I can however, find creative ways to quantify their impacts upon our budgets, governments, school systems, communities and  families. I also can point out that a housed and fed population of school children is a not just the moral responsibility of a just world but the duty and mandate of all us and our constructed democratic governments. 

 I can scarcely believe that any of us could imagine all of the deficits poverty and homelessness create for youth in pursuit of their education.  In a state that specifically included the education of children as a 'paramount duty' to be exercised without regard to caste, one could speculate on whether or not a county that does not build adequate affordable housing and provide adequate food banks is interfering with the mandates of McCleary to provide for a "basic education" to all students.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Whatcom Conservation District Election

Well... You know all those complicated numbers, procedures, and bar codes on your primary and general election ballots?  You won't have to worry about too much of that for your Whatcom Conservation District election:

Here's my quick summary:
(1) Put the top form ("ballot") where you vote (for either Larry Helm or Joy Monjure)
 in the small blank ("secrecy") envelope and seal it.
(2) Put the bottom form ("affidavit") where you sign in the addressed ("return") envelope.
(3) Put the small blank ("secrecy") envelope in the addressed ("return")
(4) Attach a stamp and mail!

There are "Instructions to Vote Your Ballot" on page 2 of the enclosed handout.
How could anything possible go wrong?