Lawrence Sherman: When people see different crime rates, they tend to ask whether they’re going up or down. They don’t ask the question that is important, which is, “how does it all add up?” so if we multiply a murder by the cost that murder entails, and lifetime earnings or any other metric, and compare that to a burglary or to a car break-in, we see the price of those crimes is very different, or the impact, the harm they’ve caused is very different. If we could agree on what the price list is or the amount of harm is for each of those, and then multiply every time that crime occurs by that value, what we could see is that it could take 50,000 car break-ins or 100,000 to make up for one murder. And so the murder rate, which is the most visible and the most reliable crime rate, certainly gets a lot of attention at the moment, but if it’s up or down a little bit, it may not reflect the overall amount of harm that society is suffering. So it’s kind of like the gross domestic product, is another way to think about it. When we have people who are unemployed, they’re not making things; they’re not producing services or goods. And all of that gets reflected in the growth rate of the economy. So everybody knows that China’s growth rate was steadily rising while we were tanking during the last two years. But they don’t know that about crime, and they don’t know that because we don’t tell it to them. So my challenge to the bureau of justice statistics today is to get on the stick and develop a crime harm index that could take the most reliable data and explain to a grateful nation exactly how in totality the crime situation is doing — getting better or worse.