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Mathematics Problem Solving
Volume 5, Number 24, March 20, 2000

Statistics and the Truth

The Facts: There were 100 illegal use of a firearm arrests in Hemlock County in 1998. The district attorney’s office prosecuted 2 of those cases that year. There were 300 such arrests in 1999 and they resulted in 3 prosecutions that year. The district attorney decided not to prosecute the other cases.

Larry B. Lee was the district attorney in 1998 and 1999. He is running for reelection. The challenger is Karen Cane.

Ms. Cane made this statement in her latest campaign ad: The current district attorney has a terrible record in fighting the illegal use of guns. He only prosecuted 2% of those arrested for the illegal use of a firearm in 1998, and only prosecuted 1% of those arrested for such crimes in 1999. Vote for me so that I can change that policy. I will be serious about enforcing the law!

This was Mr. Lee’s response: I have worked hard to protect our citizens from violent criminals. In spite of an inadequate budget, we have been improving our record of prosecutions and convictions. In 1999 we prosecuted 50% more illegal use of firearms cases than the previous year. Vote for me so that I can continue to improve law enforcement in our county!

Ignore the opinions. Which candidate’s statement is true in the sense of being mathematically correct?

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