The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Safe is Bessemer? Western Tribune Column

Public safety is important to families who live in a community, and the issue has been in the local conversation recently following a few high profile crimes. City officials claim that crime rates are decreasing, but a look at the statistics show that this depends on which crime is being measured, and what year is being compared to.

Since the Mayor asked the public to compare crime rates (at a recent Town Hall meeting) we did just that. If we go back to the reports from 2000 (there were no reports submitted for 2001, 2002 or 2003) we see that, yes, homicide, assaults and theft are down. But rape, robbery, burglary and motor vehicle theft are up. If we use the earliest available rates from after he was elected (2004) for comparison, the results are even worse. Murder, rape, assault, burglary and theft have all increased.

Either way, a claim that crime is down is a dubious claim, at best.

But even more disturbing to residents of Bessemer is a comparison to comparable cities. The Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center categorizes cities based on population, and Bessemer is in the 25,000 to 50,000 range. In 2008, there were nine other Alabama cities in that category.

The other cities are Alabaster, Florence, Gadsden, Madison, Opelika, Phenix City, Prattville, Prichard and Vestavia Hills.

If the crime rates from these cities are averaged and compared to Bessemer, one has to agree that changes are needed.
For homicides, in 2008, Bessemer had 5, the other cities average 2. Rapes: Bessemer-27, Others-12. Robbery: Bessemer- 193, Others - 65. Assaults: Bessemer- 354, Others-80. Burglary: Bessemer-1046, Others-348. Theft: Bessemer-2392, Others-911. Motor Vehicle Theft: Bessemer 278-Others-103.

The data does not account for factors such as race, age, economic conditions, etc, and often such factors are considered when performing statistical analysis.

But to use those factors as an excuse for poor numbers is not acceptable. Because race or employment status or other demographic factors should never be an excuse for crime.
The numbers show that in every category, Bessemer is way off the average. No wonder the people of our city are concerned.

The residents of Bessemer deserve to live in a community where they feel at least as safe as the members of similar communities in our state. Anything short of this is unacceptable.

No comments: