Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Analysis of Actual Crime Data

A reader sent me a detailed study of all crime committed in 2006, broken down by type, location, and perpetrator. Here are the main findings, and my semi-excellent analysis is to follow. (Only semi-excellent today--my brain works better with sunshine, which we haven't seen in a while. The backup plan for occasions like this is to drink a lot of coffee, but my caffeine level is already approaching the maximum safe level as recommended by the Surgeon General.)

2006 Crime Statistics
(Note: According to published statistics, about 6% of city residents live in HACA communities)
(HACA stands for the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis)

-7.4% of all crimes occurred on HACA properties
-5% of all arrests were of HACA residents
-16% of all crimes occurred on OR NEAR HACA properties
-29.5% of all violent crimes occur on HACA properties
-26% of all drug arrests occur on HACA properties

The point that this blog has made is that ratios of officers per thousand employees are not helpful because Annapolis has more public housing than any other city its size, and crimes occur more frequently in these areas. We now have the data to show that this theory was largely, ultimately correct.

The first thing we need to consider is that this data UNDERESTIMATES the true link between public housing and crime. Why?

Reason #1: Nobody really knows how many people actually live in public housing. HACA has lease records, but an unknown number of people live in these dwellings and are NOT on the leases.

Reason #2: There is subsidized housing in Annapolis that is not subsidized by HACA, but rather by the federal government. So, crimes committed by individuals in these communities are attributed to the 'rest of the city', not the public housing areas, because the study that I have data for only considers HACA properties (and not the federal public housing properties.)

So, what this data shows is even more true when you try and understand the situation as it accurately exists.

We can see that drug crimes and violent crimes occur at a disproportionately high rate in public housing communities. (Drug crimes and violent crimes are undoubtedly correlated with each other, but we would need more detailed statistical analysis to determine by exactly how much). Furthermore, many of these crimes are being committed by people who shouldn't be there.

So, what do we do about this? HACA, like this blog, has advocated more police, and particularly police walking beats (this means on foot) in the public housing communities. This would allow officers to cover more remote areas than vehicle patrols, and would be a better deterrent to drug dealers/users. It would also allow officers to develop personal relationships with the residents, which would make it easier for officers to identify non-residents and people who don't belong there.

Sounds simple enough...so why aren't the police doing this? Answer: because they have general orders that they are to remain "reactionary", and not proactive*. Let me repeat this. Officers have general rules of conduct, coming straight from the top, ordering them to remain in their vehicles even when responding to a call. They are prohibited from preventing crime.

(*I have heard this from 2 reliable sources. Although I have not utilized a Public Information Act request to look at the general orders, I know people who have.)

Please reread that again...the police are prohibited from doing their job. Who can change this culture? The police chief, and the mayor.

Let's assume that eventually the city has a mayor and a police chief who are committed to addressing this problem in the right way. Done. Good. Now the question becomes, what is the strategy for structurally preventing crimes--that is, changing the culture so that people want to commit fewer crimes.

The answer, I would argue, is ownership. If people own their houses, they become stakeholders in their communities. They would be less likely to encourage or tolerate criminal or destructive behavior. Is this happening now? Sort of. All HACA subsidized housing is rental-only. HACA is trying to promote ownership in and around their communities, but there is too weak of an incentive for families to move out of public housing. If a family moves in to public housing, there is no requirement that they leave, even if they eventually earn enough money to buy their own house. HACA gives preference to working families and tries to promote self-sufficiency, but there is only so much they can do.

There is only so much anyone can do with a mayor and chief who don't want to help.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog with interest. I read often and never feel the need to comment. Today you have some misinformation that needs to be corrected. I am a 15 year veteran of the Annapolis Police Department. There are no such orders to remain reactive in our patrols. Annapolis Police embrace community policing and do our best to interact with citizens. You like stats so here is one for you to think about. Our patrol division consists of 63 officers. About 10 of them are supervisors. 53 officers answer all the calls for service in the city!!!!. Well we had about 45,000 calls for service last year. Not much time for proactive policing huh? A good place to start is to fill the 23 vacancies.