In part 1 of this analysis I present some cold hard facts. Let there be no doubt that overall we are a safer city than we were 30 years ago. However behind the positive overall results there are some less encouraging undercurrents. In this post I will address some facts, observations, and myths that can be hidden in overall data.
Here are “Other” thoughts:
1) Realize that classifications and crime changes over time. There are plenty of examples that I can point to that seem silly. It was pointed out to me by Mark Bilderback that a drive by shooting that only does property damage might be considered vandalism. That said the overall statistics show such a strong reduction in overall crime even adjusting some of these more serious items that might happen there has still been a reduction in total crime.
2) While the overall numbers are good, certain neighborhoods suffer much higher crime rates. There are numerous examples, but the 4.5 Street neighborhood / Washington Village neighborhood, the Cimarron Court neighborhood, and the meadow park neighborhoods are examples of persistent higher crime areas. In every of these areas I can point to 3 things in common that were the product of poor city leadership.
- Poor Quality Development – Cimarron Court is the saddest example. Here the DeWitz’s and others put up a large number of cheap shoddy homes around the early 1980s. Not only were these home build as cheap as possible, but an enormous number of zoning variances were granted to make the development even worse. The duplexes here are a prime example of blight by design. In addition to the poor quality construction, infrastructure does not offer the connectivity to businesses or green space that would aid in redevelopment. Good people have been made the victims of bad development.
- Concentrations of Poverty – In most of our higher crime areas there is an overabundance of low income housing. Low income housing does not need to lead to crime if it is well build an integrated into a mixed income area. Some of our toughest areas are where city leaders allowed concentrations of poverty to occur.
- Slumlord Properties – This is near universal, find the slumlords and you will find the crime. We have let slumlords run rampant for far too long. City leaders have not gotten serious about not allowing blighted or persistent high crime properties. The landlord code of conduct is a good start, but even that was weakened. We have plenty of responsible landlord and tenants. We don’t need to tolerate the irresponsible ones.
3) Our budget is being shifted from things that prevent crime to things we call public safety. The 2001 operating budget was $844.05 per citizen (inflation adjusted) our 2011 budget calls for spending $846.50 per citizen. In other words, our budget is flat for the last decade. That said property taxes are up significantly due to state LGA cuts. Hidden in the overall numbers is the fact that quality of life spending items like parks, library, and culture are down 7.5% as such we have less amenities to keep kids out of trouble. At the same time spending on public safety is up nearly 10%. Public safety is eating up our budget. Contrary to the belief of some we are spending more and more on public safety at the cost of everything else.
4) The annual purging of school budgets will have an enormous effect on public safety. We need safe and engaging activities to give youth positive roll models and develop character. Instead of growing activities for kids, our public schools are slashing them just as the city continues to spend less on quality of life measures. It is not the districts fault. Local funding was hijacked from the community just in time for the state to balance their budget by stealing school funding dollars. We have state mandated poverty in the schools. We have one of the largest populations of poor students of any district in the state. If unresolved this is a ticking time bomb for area crime.
5) Changes are being made. The police force has been reorganized to further engage citizens. CAPS will engage citizens further and help determine police presence. In 2011 we will be adding a Police Data Analyst which I am very excited about. I believe that further crime reductions require numbers and facts and not opinions.
6) We also suffer from fickle citizen participation, while there was an outcry for more police officers, when the landlord code of conduct was modified to allow a landlord who endangers the public to have his other properties unaffected by their decisions, there was absolutely no public outcry. We need not only an engaged public, but a consistently engaged public. “Here today, gone tomorrow,” is a great way to accomplish nothing.