A few readers questioned the validity of the 42 studies that I referred to last week. Here is a good summary of the largest study.
Given that every other approach to solving the problem of crime has been ineffective, then it is worth taking a serious look at something that shows enormous promise. However, I understand that this study undermines how many people view the world and, as a reuslt, will cause them great intellectual and emotional anguish. But that is the nature of a paradigm shift -- out-moded foundations get destroyed and then get replaced by more useful way of thinking.
Washington, D.C.—Decreased Violent Crime (1993) This study was a prospective experiment in which a group of approximately 4,000 participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs assembled in Washington, D.C., from June 7 to July 30, 1993. The hypothesis that levels of violent crime in the District of Columbia would fall substantially during the Demonstration Project was posited with a 27 member Project Review Board comprising independent scientists and leading citizens. The Board approved the research protocol and monitored the research process. The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (DCMPD) provided weekly crime data from a database used for their FBI Uniform Crime Reports. The study statistically controlled for the effects of weather variables, daylight, historical crime trends and annual patterns in the District of Columbia, as well as trends in neighboring cities.
Time series analysis of 1993 data showed that homicides, rapes and assaults (HRA) crimes dropped significantly during the Demonstration Project, corresponding with increases in the size of the group. The maximum decrease was 23.3%, p<2 x 10-9, (24.6% using a longer baseline, with 1988–1993 data, p<3 x 10-5), coincident with the peak number of participants in the group during the final week of the assembly. No significant decreases in HRA crimes were found during the same period in each of the five previous years. Nor could the effect of the coherence-creating group on reducing HRA crimes be accounted for by additional police staffing. The results for HRA crime were highly robust to alternative time series model specifications, and showed that the effect of the group size was cumulative and persisted after the Demonstration Project ended. Calculation of the steady state gain based on the time series model predicted that a permanent group of 4,000 coherence-creating experts in the District would have a long-term effect of reducing HRA crimes by 48% (Hagelin, Rainforth, Orme-Johnson, Cavanaugh, & Alexander, 1999).
It should also be noted that another major purpose of the project, that was lodged in advance, was to create coherence for government. During the project, a floundering Clinton administration suddenly began to make progress. On July 18th, journalist Sally Quinn wrote in the Washington Post: "Well, in case anyone hasn't noticed, Washington is in a lull, at least from the vantage point of the inmates.... the Clinton administration appears to have revived....But such a swift reversal of political fortune is not easy to account for. The inmates may logically wonder whether Clinton really turned things around or if something else is going on...almost mysteriously and almost overnight, in the face of government distress..." This change was also observed from inside the White House. Clinton's special assistant and White House press secretary, George Staphanopoulos, recently wrote of that period: "By the Fall of 1993, The Clinton White House had found its footing. We held the Middle East peace ceremony, passed NAFTA and the Brady bill, got our economic plan through and had proposed the centerpiece of our domestic agenda: Health-care reform" (Staphanopoulos, 1999). Time series analysis showed that coincident with the onset of the Demonstration Project that Clinton's approval rating increased (p=5.29 X 10-8), media positivity increased towards the president (p=.01) and all five available indicators of social stress decreased (emergency psychiatric calls (p=.009), hospital trauma cases (p=.02), complaints against the police, (p=.01), accidental deaths (p=.05), and a social stress index of the four (p=3.22 X 10-5) (Goodman, Orme-Johnson, Rainforth, & Goodman, 1997).