I've not heard the mayor of Bessemer making claims about crime being down lately, but it's probably only because I haven't been listening to him. After what we've heard him say, and then looking at the facts, it's been easy to see that he is either blind to the truth, delusional, or putting the politics of getting elected above the safety of the citizens of Bessemer.
He has said on more than one occasion that crime in Bessemer is just a "perception." In a newspaper column last year I wrote about the "perception" statistics, from which it could be seen that the mayor is full of baloney when he says crime is down.
We have another year of statistics (provided by the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center) to look at.
Remember, when looking at trends, we would like to start with the year 2002, because that is when Ed May was elected mayor. But our city did not report crime statistics to the state that year, for some unknown reason. So we go back to 2000.
Last year I also wrote about clearance rates, and showed how the clearance rates in Bessemer compared unfavorably to other cities our size. Clearance rate, you will recall, is the number of crimes cleared divided by the number of crimes recorded. A crime is considered cleared when enough evidence is gathered to charge a suspect or take one into custody.
In the report last year, for instance we saw that clearance rate for rape dropped from 38% to 15% between 2000 and 2008. In 2009, there were 24 rapes, and 6 were cleared, so the clearance rate showed an improvement - 25.
But don't break out the champagne yet. Compared to both 2000 (when there were 5 homicides) and 2008 (6 homicides), homicide in Bessemer increased in 2009, to 10 (with only 3 cleared). Robbery is up in 2009 (209) compared to both 2000 (174) and 2008 (193). Burglary is up in 2009 (1170) compared to both 2000 (802) and 2008 (1046). Total crimes were up in 2009 (4381) compared to both 2000 (4176) and 2008 (4295).
So far in 2010 there have been at least 6 murders in Bessemer, as seen in this map of murder locations in the Birmingham area.
The clearance rate for all crimes in Bessemer is 15% and this is an improvement. The police are doing a better job of solving crimes, it seems, in the face of more crime.
And as long as we treat crime as a nebulous "perception" rather than a serious problem, it will continue to grow.
It takes more than telling your neighbors about Jesus to solve the crime problem of Bessemer. Maybe some new ideas, some new strategies, police substations that are open on weekends (seriously), police getting out of their cars and walking the neighborhoods, getting to know the folks. A new mayor.
Today's Western Star poses a question.
They want to know why hundreds of Kenneth Gulley signs are disappearing.
I have a theory. We've seen people selectively taking up signs on our block. They even reached in over our fence and took a sign.
But signs, even "Re-elect Ed May" signs, do not equal votes. In my neighborhood, as I was walking to the track today, I noticed that Ed May operatives had been through. Lot's of flyers. But, I also noticed that the people must not be too impressed because the sidewalks and yards were littered with the things where people had thrown them down, probably in disgust.
The flyers have been tossed aside, just as the mayor should be.
A lot will be said before the election on August 24. But no one can deny that crime is still a problem, not a perception, and that crime rates that are either increasing or remaining virtually the same are not acceptable and are not progress. And we want progress!