“The Wire” Vs The Facts

The Wire is one of the best television shows I ever saw, that anyone ever saw.  Created by David Simon, who wrote the sensational true crime book Homicide:  A Year On The Killing Streets, it’s a cops and robbers show about the mean streets of Baltimore so realistic it’ll make your teeth ache.  It’s also brilliantly written with some excellent contributions from the likes of Dennis Lehane and George Pelicanos.

All that said, however, the show does suffer from a political disability.  Although every single politician in it is a Democrat, whenever it can, it still manages to blame Republicans, conservatism or just politics in general for the degraded state of the city.  I don’t know this for sure but I strongly suspect Simon is a liberal who can’t quite grasp the nettle of “Oh, I get it – we did this to the city!” despite the evidence in front of his eyes.  I know the feeling.

For most of the show, this doesn’t create a problem because, as I say, the Democrats are onscreen doing that destructive thing they do.  But the show’s second season deals with a system called Compstat and gets it wrong.  If you want to know the truth about Compstat (or just about anything else involving the police) you have to go to City Journal‘s fabulous Heather Mac Donald, specifically this recent piece:

“The crime analysis and accountability system known as Compstat, developed by the New York Police Department in 1994, is the most revolutionary public-sector achievement of the last quarter-century. Since its inception, Compstat has driven crime in New York down an astounding 77 percent; veterans of the Compstat-era NYPD who have gone on to run police departments elsewhere have replicated its successes. Other government agencies, both in New York and nationally, have applied the Compstat model to their own operations, using minutely analyzed data to hold managers accountable for everything from improvements in public health to decreases in welfare dependency to road repairs.”

Read the rest here, and then compare how The Wire’s second season wrongly tows the New York Times’ anti-Compstat line.

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  • Sasha Toman

    Absurd nonsense! The Wire is the best thing ever to have shown in US airwaves, but the blame is to be shared. While we all know that Dems run Balitmore, it’s not just the politicians in that city that are skewered, the Teamsters, the Stevedores, teachers… all are targets. It’s just not the pablum your ilk is used to, Hannity diatribes that tell you exactly who’s Good and who’s Evil. You, Klavan, are a Neocon who sees bias in everything. Your screeds are increasingly unintelligible and relevant.

  • Anang

    Bias in everything eh? Boo-frickity hoo.

    Simon is a liberal. After the wire he directed the miniseries Generation Kill.

    What’s hilarious is that the Wire shows the police officers having to deal with leaks, red tape, legal finagling, backroom deals, needless bureaucracy and criminals who always seem to get away with it and yet they show no sympathy for the iraq war where the administration had to deal with leaks, red tape, murderers who got away with it….

    Just look at Senator Clay Davis in the show. There’s more than enough proof to convict him, the police and the DA work closely together to make the case and yet he walks away. The detectives and lawyers on the show have incontrovertible proof that Davis is guilty and they cannot believe he gets to walk away.
    By all means, put KSM in this system and see how well it works out. The trial is still on track, just not in NYC anymore. Of course the people who investigated KSM aren’t like the detectives on this show because they…well…because they’re imperialist tools..or something…

  • Remus

    From what i know the Wire is one of the best shows that was on television. In regards to it’s writing, plot, characters, themes and the way the city of Baltimore was intricately explored, Alan Moore said it was the only show he ever considered righting for on tv. While there is bias in the show, it’s a pretty minor criticism, but if Klavan wants to pick at, have at it hoss.

  • Stephen H

    Crime was falling in NY at least 2-3 years before compstat and fell similarly after. Plus compstat was only part of a raft of measures (e.g. broken windows) and extra resources.

    And at the same time there were other large demographic changes and changes to the drug economy that were leading to falling crime not just throughout the US but in most developed countries.

    Compstat a success? Not proven.

  • Sam

    Comstat* is how they spell it on the show and it doesnt appear until season 3.