Monday, October 22, 2007

Correcting perceptions

My predecessor used to be fond of saying "perception is reality." There is a certain truth to that. Nonetheless, I'm always interested in discovering the reality and challenging the perception if it is inaccurate. The most common misperception I encounter is someone who's seen a couple stories in the news and now believes that a terrible crime wave is gripping the City. The crime wave is often a function of a slow news day on other fronts, rather than some dramatic swing in crime. We have plenty of stuff everyday to fill the reporters' plates if nothing more tasty is available.

Police are not immune to these misperceptions either. Some of our long-held maxims fail to prove up if put to the test: for example there are fewer domestic assaults on holidays, not more. Saturday morning's Lincoln Journal Star carried a story with a headline "Increased risk of crime prompts worry about Capitol security". The online story's headline is slightly different. I cringed a little, because although this neighborhood has some challenges, to be sure, it also some strengths and some dedicated stakeholders who work hard to counter misperceptions about it's livability.

I'm all in favor of improving the security in and around the State Capitol building. I think this is a good idea in this age where twisted fame-seekers, copy cat criminals and terrorists are drawn to iconic buildings. But to assert that this is needed due to increased crime in the neighborhood struck me as odd, and I wanted to put that to the test. So, I drew a circle with a quarter mile radius around the Sower, and counted all the assaults, murders, rapes, arsons, robberies, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, drug offenses, child abuses, vandalism, sex offenses, and weapons offenses within that circle. Here's the results:

The 2007 data is as of late last week and we have 10 weeks to go, but it looks like there's a good chance it won't crack 300.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is kind of long, so edit as you see fit...

There will be a certain amount of crime near the Cap, partly because it's densely populated with low-income residentials, and also because (as a fisherman might say), it's some significant "structure". Crime is fairly static in that area, and unless I'm mistaken, it's not a growing problem.

However, local media needs their crime scare stories, just like TV news needs their "health scare of the week" stories to keep people tuned in through the commercials, because the purpose of local news is to sell advertising, not to deliver news.

Maybe if the local rag would do a very prominent series of stories on the chronic human, carelessness of unlocked and open garage doors here in Lincoln, and the resulting garage burglaries, they'd be addressing a greater crime problem, one where many,victims seem to go out of their way to leave their garages unsecured and thus make their property a soft target of opportunity.

The Neighborhood Watch newsletter (the PDF hasn't yet been posted) just came in the mail today, and the main pillar of the newsletter - garage burglaries. The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing mentioned (in their guide on burglaries of single-family residences) that Neighborhood Watch programs are of widely variable effectiveness. This probably depends on how many people actually pay attention, and how many let it go in one ear and out the other. From what I see, too many people with unsecured property should rent out space in their craniums for extra cash, because they don't seem to be using that space for anything else.