Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do you feel safer because of the drop in murders?!

Someone just today was asking Buz about the sharp drop in murders compared to last year. While there has been an upsurge in homicides in the city since around the first of November, there is still projected to be a 40+ drop from last year. (Buz is predicting we'll end up with about 245 murders this year: he is so Mr. Cynicalpants!).

But your consultant wonders: does the decrease in homicides make you feel safer as you go about your day-to-day business? I dunno; and I'm skeptical.

So, we're wondering if our faithful, nice readers will chime in and let us know: what difference does the drop in homicides mean to you? do you feel safer? do you feel crime is moving in the right direction?

Please let me know!


helix said...

No, the drop in murder rate does not make me feel safer. I base my perception of safety on what I hear through neighbors and through neighborhood newsgroups. There are more muggings and more burglaries in my 'hood. I feel less safe and I won't let my wife walk to/from her car at night without being with her.

This all goes back to a couple of years ago when many people were bitterly complaining that it simply was impossible to have a rising murder rate while other crimes were decreasing. They said it was some kind of diabolical "O'Malley" conspiracy where crime stats were fudged systematically and radically, while murder rate remained unchanged (... because you "can't fudge a body count", you know). They believed that murder rate and other crime rates HAD TO be locked in proportion to each other.

But today, it seems the powers-that-be have decided that "murder rate" is the number that counts and everything else takes a back-seat. I'm not so sure that this is good long term strategy. The thing that causes productive people to leave the city IS NOT murder, it is things like having your house broken in to, or being mugged, or just having to deal with disorder constantly.

buzoncrime said...

Thank you, Helix. Well said!
While my neighborhood in North Baltimore has few muggings, there are certainly a fair number nearby. And there have been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood, as well as throughout the city.

My wife does not go out alone at night, either; I do, but am very careful (of course I am 215lbs and an ex-cop, so.........)

And you are very perceptive that the policy priority is the lowering of the body count and reducing shootings. It is not patrol, responding to 911 calls or any sort of followup. And you are so very right that it's robberies and having your house broken into are what most concern people.

Anybody else out there have some thoughts?

Bmore said...

i DO NOT feel any safer. Yes the rate is down, but i feel as though gang initiation is on the rise, which will lead to MORE murders in the future. I believe 2009 will have more murders then 2008.

I ALWAYS look both ways down the street before i leave my house. Murders may be down, but i dont want to get shot in the arm, leg or anywhere else!

So to answer your question, i do not feel any safer. Maryland MUST pass better concealed weapon laws.

Melissa said...

No, I do not feel safer. If you've seen the Charles Village weekly crime alert, you know that there have been an alarming number of armed robberies, many occurring during daylight hours.

My home break-in and that of close neighbors threatens my sense of security much more than a body count. Of course, it would be nice to have a lower one. I'll note that my hometown, Boston, might hit 70 this year and folks are all kinds of mad.

John said...

I feel much the same.

Certainly homicides are down, fortunately however I don't know anyone who has been a victim of a homicide or perpetrated a homicide. However I do know several people who have had their cars broken into, robbed and burglarized.

Homicides in Baltimore tend to occur in certain segments of society that I do not interact with, so I naively feel immune to their effect. However I have been affected by the multitude of other crime that sweeps this city.

buzoncrime said...

Bmore---I am also concerned with the long term effects; what's really scary is that for months the Police Department is supposedly going after the really bad, really mean bad guys...........and guess what, more of them keep popping up. Buz is afraid that the Baltimore crime team has a criminal development program: there's no doubt that in the city ( and to a lesser extent everywhere), we are growing hardened street criminals. Gangs? Why do kids join gangs? Buz thinks that primarily for the same reason incarcerated folks do: for protection.

Melissa---Yes, I also get the Charles Village crime alert, along with the Hopkins security reports. And yes, the crimes are bold and alarming. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the greater Charles Village areas have had a serious and persistent crime problem. People living or having businesses in those areas must take their security very seriously. Sorry, we wish it weren't so, but it is.
I heard someone on, I think, the Dan Roderick's show, also mentioning how Boston, a city about the same size as Baltimore, having far fewer homicides. Well, I haven't checked the actual data lately, but Buz thinks that Boston has a much lower level of the abject poverty facing our gritty city, and a much less level of serious drug abuse, per capital. Also, almost every other indicator of poor community health can be found here. Betcha, 23-1, that Boston's indicators are nowhere near ours. And we haven't even begun to discuss Baltimore's overwhelmed and dysfunctional criminal justice and juvenile justice systems.

John--I agree that many people in Baltimore, except a lucky or tough few, have been victimized by criminal activity--though we may not know personally of homicide victims. Both you and Helix point out that concentrating almost exclusively on murders and shootings is a short term strategy, and while some attention should be given to them, is not a very viable long-term strategy. I agree.

buzoncrime said...

helix---can you please tell me what neighborhood you live in?

Cham said...

Yesterday, I was meandering around looking for good birds to photograph as I often do and came upon a cabal of the local punks who many people believe have been causing much of the neighborhood vandalism. On a whim I decided to pull out my camera and take a few pictures of them. It turns out punks don't like to have their picture taken. The more they protested the more brazen I became. Finally, they stopped with their protests and decided that I was going to do it anyway so they let me take some nice clear pictures.

I've decided I am going to continue with this project and figure out the names and addresses that go along with the faces. I think I am going to create my own little file of pics, so the next time we have some vandalism one of my neighbors might be able to recognize a face from my little picture line up. Naturally, the police will refuse to do anything about it, but perhaps a little blog entry of the event, including pictures and names, with the word "allegedly" bandied about more than few times could be fun.

After all, there does seem to be a dearth of hookers in Pigtown these days. ;)

buzoncrime said...

Cham---You must be on tough hombre. Don't cha know that hardly anyone likes there picture taken? Didn't ya read the city paper article by the professor who got locked up taking pictures of cops?

Are you packing heat, like Sebastian?

I mean, seriously, be very careful with that: one of them (or more) might go off on you if you take their picture without asking. Buz fears for your safety in Downtown Pigtown.

Could it be that the hookers have off for the holidays--sorta like colleges and universities?

Or have they all been dispersed throughout Wilkens and Harford Road? The prostitution there in Hamilton is really getting bold. Perhaps you and Sebastian can come up and take some pictures there??!

Melissa said...

"Well, I haven't checked the actual data lately, but Buz thinks that Boston has a much lower level of the abject poverty facing our gritty city, and a much less level of serious drug abuse, per capital."

According to the latest census bureau stats (American Community Survey) 20% of Baltimore City residents live in poverty. Higher for kids (28.2) and Black/African American (23.7).

Boston has the same overall no (20.4) but HIGHER rates of poverty for kids (31.0) and Black/African American (26.4).

Last I checked, Boston had lower unemployment for African American men, so that is a factor.

Re: drugs. There is a big factor. In '05 Baltimore had 18,753 arrests for drug possession. Boston had 4313. However, heroin is not so much the drug of concern as is cocaine/crack.

Boston has marginally better health outcomes than Baltimore (health policy is my profession). Mostly due to a large number of research hospitals and the new law requiring health insurance (along with the new gov. embracing the medical home model). But health indicators for chronic disease and lead exposure are about the same.

So, you win on the drugs but abject poverty indicators are actually worse.

buzoncrime said...

Thanks, Melissa!

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