Tuesday, I sought to answer the question that many are asking…”Is crime really down in Memphis?”, like we’ve been hearing it is for the past few years.
And at least for violent crime, the answer is no…its not down enough to call it a trend, though it is down from the 2006 high that is commonly cited.
Violent crime may get the headlines, but property crime makes up the vast majority of instances of crime every year.
So, for a little perspective, I thought we should look at property crime as well.
Below is a graph showing the instances of property crime from 2003 to 2012 using the FBI Uniform Crime Report stats from those years.
As I noted in my previous post, a real downward trend would show a blue line with a steady drop, and a red line somewhere in the middle.
This 10 year look seems to show that, though 2009 and 2010 show the largest drops.
Understanding why property crime dropped so precipitously in those two years means looking at the individual categories…Burglary, Larceny-theft, and Motor Vehicle theft.
You can see those three charts below
click each to enlarge
If you look at all three of these graphs, you see what appears to be a steady decrease in property crime when measured against the 10 year average…especially in two segments: burglary and motor vehicle theft.
In fact, measured against those averages, 2012 saw a decrease in burglary of 14.5%, Larceny-theft of 13.5%, and motor vehicle theft of 48%.
Calculations of the median against 2012 net a similar decrease.
Measuring each sector against the rate from 10 years ago nets similar results in Larceny, a 25% drop in burglary, and a 65% drop in motor vehicle theft.
So it seems to me that it is fair to say property theft is down over the past 10 years.
Reality Check: Is property crime down? – Yes
The next question is why?
For burglary and larceny, the answer is a little more complicated. But for motor vehicle thefts its pretty easy…opportunity has dropped.
There are a ton of articles that deal with the precipitous drop in motor vehicle thefts, nationwide, over the past decade…and all credit the advent of “smart keys” as the primary reason (here’s one from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area…which has a relatively high rate of mv thefts compared to the national average).
In fact, when looking at the total decline in property theft across these three sectors from their high points…MV theft comes in second and accounts for one third of the total decline, despite the category being no more than 15% of all property crime…even at its high point.
The advent of smart keys as a deterrent played a big role in the decline of one segment of property crime. Those smart keys decreased opportunity and increased the probability that a person would be unsuccessful in their end game…profiting from the theft of a car.
So we can glean from this that “opportunity” and “consequences” play a large role in whether or not a crime is committed.
Of course, that raises the question of why this is seen as an “opportunity”. And it should cause us to question why someone would do this in the first place despite the “consequences”?
That answer is harder to come by…but there are two primary schools of thought…and those schools of thought are pretty well enmeshed with how an individual views the world in general.
And guess what? That’s going to be the topic of the next post on crime!
Reader Note: This is a long an complicated subject from this point on, and, in all honesty, I’ve only started writing this post (or series of posts) so it may be a couple of days before the next update. Stay tuned!
This assertion has been told by all kinds of folks in public life…elected officials, law enforcement, etc. and is more often than not…unchallenged, even though few people can tell that “crime is down” based on reporting or their life experience here in Memphis.
What’s interesting is when they put a number on it. Back in October, Tennessee was ranked most dangerous state in the nation. Memphis bore the brunt of this rating.
In response to this ranking several reports came out including this one that cited officials including DA Amy Weirich as saying “crime is down 22% since 2006″.
But how can crime be down when no one sees any appreciable difference in the crime rate? Is it that we’re conditioned to overreact to crime? Is it that there’s too much reporting on crime? What is it?
As with most things, it depends on when you start looking at the data. If, like Operation Safe Community Report, you only go back to 2006…indeed, crime, and more importantly violent crime is down 23%.
But crime, and our perceptions about crime have a longer view that the 5 years between 2006 and 2011. So I decided to take a look back 10 years…from 2003 to 2012 using the FBI Uniform Crime Report stats from those years.
It should be noted that I wanted to take a longer view, but the absence of data from 2002 for the area cut that effort short.
So, with all that in mind here’s a graph that shows violent crime rates in Memphis over this time period.
In the above graph, the blue line is reported annual violent crime. The red line is the 10 year average.
If you look at the numbers, from 2010 and 2011 are 23% down from 2006. 2012 is 15% down from 2006. But 2006 is a high water mark…not the average.
Looking at the average, 2010 and 11 are down about 11%. 2012 is only down 1.5%.
If crime were really on the decline, the blue line would be moving steadily in a downward direction and the red line would be in the middle of that line. That’s not what we see in the chart. The blue line is snaking around the red line over that 10 year period, which tells me that our instinct that crime isn’t going down is not unfounded.
And this goes to the way people use and cite statistics. A one or two year decline does not a decline trend make. If, over the course of the entire 10 year period there was a visible downward trend, then it would be fair to say crime was decreasing. But that’s not what’s happening.
So while its not inaccurate to say there’s a 23% decrease since 2006, its also not an entirely accurate accounting of what’s going on. Its a sin of omission. Its a political statement. Its not wrong…but its not right either.
So no, the crime rate isn’t really “down”, and your perceptions are not unfounded. The rate of crime is about what it has been for the past 10 years. It is virtually unchanged.
Reality Check – No, crime isn’t really “down” enough for you to notice.
Of course, this is just violent crime. Next time we’ll look at property crime and break down some numbers for individual classes of crime.
Ed. NoteIt should be noted that taking a longer view (as I originally intended) might net data that shows crime is indeed down (from say 1995 or 1980, etc.), but the 10 year view does illustrate the problem. Also, the population changes between different decades would need to be accounted for in any analysis that deep. Since there’s little population change in Memphis between 2003 and 2012, I feel it is a good “apples for apples” comparison.
You often don’t know you’ve missed it until its gone.
So today’s news that Sara Kyle won’t seek the office of Governor, seems in a lot of ways like a missed opportunity…for a lot of people, and not just Mrs. Kyle.
Let me first say, I don’t begrudge Kyle her decision. She has real-world things to deal with…and that’s something everyone involved knew from the beginning. Its also not surprising because as the proprietor of the Draft Sara Kyle website, I hadn’t heard a thing from any of the folks that motivated me to spend my time or energy on the project since September.
I’m not begrudging them either…just sayin’.
But it does give Democrats a teachable moment…if nothing else, and that is “Don’t wait your turn”. Because time moves fast. Faster than you think. And opportunity moves faster…especially when you’re sitting still.
And the unfortunate thing about Kyle’s potential but not realized entrance into the Gubernatorial race is that for many people (but not all), the opportunity to mount a challenge has passed them by.
That doesn’t mean Democrats won’t have a candidate. It just means it will be harder for them to get organized in time.
I met Terry in September at Jackson Day.
He’s a young, successful guy that has ties to all three divisions in the state.
And even though, back in September, the odds of him having a chance against Lamar! looked long, he did it anyway. He built a door.
See, back then all folks could think about was that Lamar!, a former Governor of Tennessee, US Dept. of Education Secretary, and two term Senator was too well loved by the state to warrant a challenge.
Then in early December, a Vanderbilt University Poll found that Lamar!’s approval rating sat at just 49%.
Now, if Adams had waited for his opportunity, it might have whizzed by. He built a door.
It still remains to be seen if Adams can mount a full throttle challenge to Lamar!. As of Sept. 30th, Lamar! had some $2.8m in his campaign coffers. But the point is, Adams wouldn’t even have a prayer if he had waited for his opportunity.
He has one now, and I hope that you will consider supporting him in his campaign.
Too often I hear people talk about “waiting their turn”. This is a notion based on the old days of politics when bosses ran things. There might be bosses in the GOP, but the Democratic party is a free for all right now in dire need of leadership, and with lots of opportunity for fresh faces.
There’s no reason you can’t be one of them.
Friday, January 3rd is the first day you can pull a petition for state or federal office. There are 99 State House seats, 17 State Senate Seats, 1 Gubernatorial, 1 Senatorial, and 9 US Congressional races that are waiting for people to file. And don’t get me started on all the local races that will be open statewide this year. For many of them, you can already pull a petition!
Filing is easy. Just 25 signatures from registered voters in the district you seek to represent. Click the link for a more detailed description of the requirements.
But it doesn’t happen if you don’t decide to build a door and take your opportunity.
Democrats in Tennessee have got to stop waiting and start building doors if we want to find our way out of the woods. That may make some of the old guard uncomfortable…but then, you’re not likely to move when you’ve made a permanent indention in your cushiony seat now, are you?
Investigative reports can play an important role in understanding what’s going on behind the scenes in business, government, or any institution, but it ain’t cheap. Media outlets, especially TV outlets have fewer resources and smaller staffs to do these kinds of things.
Watching NC 5′s “A Question of Influence” is not only important for people all over Tennessee…so they can see what’s happening behind the scenes, its also important to reward them by watching it at their website.
Doesn’t cost you a thing.
Here’s part 1. Go check out the other 6 parts at their website, and get your learn on.
Happy new year.
This is part 3 in a series of 3 posts (part 1, and part 2) that looks at who came out ahead, who came out behind, and who didn’t move an inch in the past 12 months. As with all these type lists, they are both subjective and incomplete, so make any additions/corrections in the comments. Thanks and have a Happy New Year. -SR
|It could have gone either way for the former legal counsel, turned leader of the largest school district in the state. Sure, there were some problems…an early rough start getting kids to and from school and the municipal schools talks could have derailed the whole thing, but Hopson persevered and has largely come out ahead and smelling like a rose.
Hopson has some big challenges this year…including the possible closure of schools, and what will likely be another bout with the County Commission…not to mention the likely shrinkage that will occur when those muni-school districts come on line. But if the past several months are any indication, he’ll find a way to make it through without too many dings.
Of course, there are still the long-term lingering problems that face the district…which include teacher retention (from munis and retirements) and increasing educational outcomes. The latter doesn’t have to be completely fixed overnight (and can’t be, by the way) just show some improvement. The former is the bigger immediate problem. One that will no doubt cause his administration a good deal of trouble over the coming months.
2014 Outlook – Partly Sunny
|They say cats always land on their feet (though I’ve seen more than a few fall on their asses) Aitken had the pick of the litter when it came to which municipal school system he would lead. Courted by all, and on the payroll (as a consultant) of several, Aitken not only landed on his feet, but called his shot.
From here the outlook gets a little murkier. There’s no question Aitken is an adept administrator, and political operator, but is he a builder? Can he build Collierville schools from the ground up?
Time will tell, and how well he fosters relationships with his school board will probably have more to do with it than anything else.
|It doesn’t matter how you feel about Terry Roland, he has, by all accounts had a banner year. Consistently sought after for comments from the media, and on a continual crusade to “do what’s right” in his own mind, Terry is one thing, and that’s consistent.
Sure, his efforts to raise ethical questions about his colleagues may not hold any water according to the law, but they hold water to his constituents, and that’s all that really matters in the politics game.
I can’t think of a day when I’ve been at the County Commission office where Roland wasn’t either there talking to constituents, or either coming or going. That’s saying something. Since I’m not a constituent I can’t say whether he does constituent services well, but he does it harder than anyone else, and that makes him a hard mark for anyone looking to rid the Commission of his presence.
Is Roland effective? That’s a good question. I’m not sure he is in the long run, but so long as he keeps fighting his “gold fight” (even when its not “the” good fight) he’ll stay within his definition of success…and I’m convinced that’s all he worries about.
2014 Outlook – “Terry-bull”
Muni schools – The hard work may just be beginning for the 6 newly minted municipal school districts, but the first fight is won…the fight for survival.
All the districts now have buildings they can call home, though perhaps not all the buildings they wanted. No matter. Its done. Now comes the hard part. Educating. How soon that starts happening is going to be one of the most interesting elements going forward.
2014 Outlook – Honeymoon Over
County Commission – The County Commission makes the winners list for one reason and one reason only…Brent Taylor is no longer on it.
That doesn’t mean I’m a fan of his replacement, but much of the drama that ensued in 2012 was due in large part to Taylor’s presence. Folks who don’t understand that, weren’t paying attention.
Now if they could just coalesce around something they could accomplish before 2014 other than cut staff and raise taxes, they’d be number one on my list.
2014 Outlook – Partisan
Teachers – Screwed out of raises and with many on the chopping block due to funding and attendance issues, can anyone truly say that Teachers haven’t gotten the raw end of the deal this year? On the local level it has been bad, but not as bad as on the state level. Still, they’re included here for the cumulative effect of all of the above.
2014 Outlook – Cloudy, with a chance of apocalypse
|The City Council came this close to being on my winners list. I mean, it was virtually handed to them. But their inability to get beyond two things: the “what’s in it for my district” syndrome, and the “I’m legislating to be Mayor” condition, that they end up being losers.
I agree that in a “Strong Mayor” governing system, a lot of the “vision thing” lands on the executive to both articulate and propose. But the Council has also gone above and beyond in their attempt to discredit the Mayor and damn near anyone else that crosses them individually, including each other, that they are a ghost of what they could be.
Vision doesn’t have to come from above. But the Council has largely allowed it to have to originate there so they can play the foil. That may score political points, but it doesn’t make you a leader.
2014 Outlook – Jockeying for position
A C Wharton
|Political capital is a funny thing. Think of it as a commodities market. When people are buying, your price goes up. When they’re selling…getting any value out of it is damn near impossible.
Such is the state of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. He rode in on a 75% margin of victory, with a fist full of political capital. Sat on it, then sat on it some more, and ultimately squandered it. Now he’s in many ways, a man without a country. The City Council doesn’t trust him (for many reasons), he’s articulated no real vision to move people (his 5 year plan is still at unicorn status) and his inability to put a proposal before the Council that stands up to scrutiny has many asking if he’s in over his head.
I think I’d rather be a leper colony resident than A C Wharton right now. He’s thrust himself in a position of extreme scrutiny by not playing offense and letting his defense spend two years holding down a stool at Krispy Kreme. Now that he needs both, he’s too slow, and out of shape to move the ball in any way but the way others want him to.
That’s no way to lead.
2014 Outlook – Needs a miracle
Unemployed – The unemployed have made every list because they’ve been failed at every level. At the local level, the failure is more about sacrificing solutions focused on the systemtemic problems in Shelby Co. in favor of the more immediate political considerations. It’s about not playing a long game. The unemployed need someone in Shelby Co. to play a long game, because the employment picture here isn’t getting any rosier.
2014 Outlook – more screwed (if that’s possible)
Poor neighborhoods – Executive programs to address blight notwithstanding, poor neighborhoods have suffered another year of severe neglect at the hands of both legislators and executives in local government. Both have chosen to look at the poor in the “Ronald Reagan” way…as just one step above the “Cadillac Driving welfare Queens”. The implication is that the poor have chosen to be poor…somehow, despite the fact that their parents were poor and their parents parents were poor, etc.
Poor neighborhoods suffer much the same fate, and easy judgement as the poor, except the drag on society is due SPECIFICALLY to this very attitude, which would allow property values to plummet in exchange for the new and expensive growth that we’re just now coming to pay for…that started over 25 years ago.
Nevermind that dead beat property owners have exploited the City and County’s weaknesses for their own personal gain, or that they’re making wild profits at the expense of the very poor they serve. Poor neighborhoods, like poor people just need to pick themselves up and dust themselves off in the eyes of those who judge on the Council and Commission, who…by the way, have largely never been poor, nor from the looks of them, ever missed a meal.
2014 Outlook – compassion will continue to be absent
Faith in government – State House Democratic Caucus leader Mike Turner has a saying, “Republicans run on a platform that government is broken, then get in office and do everything to prove it”. Locally, that’s what it seems like is happening, though in a bipartisan fashion.
It didn’t happen overnight. Two governments, city and county, that have largely been built on patronage rather than proficiency…(which in both cases the patronage system was started by white folks for those of you who want to make this racial)…are mired in a condition where neither of them really work because folks are more interested in the “right” candidates for the positions than…you know, people who can actually do the job.
Add to that the toxicity in the legislative bodies, and ineptitude at the top and you’ve got a recipe for success at failure. A recipe that no one seems genuinely interested in correcting, including the electorate.
2014 Outlook – Failing Forward
|In the world of County politics, few are as popular as County Mayor Mark Luttrell. Of course, that popularity is more based on his personality than his policies.
Luttrell gets a draw because as an administrator, he hasn’t really done much. He’s got no signature agenda, on the hard stuff, he’s dispatched his chief henchman Harvey Kennedy to do the dirty work. Luttrell doesn’t have to do much politically, because he knows the more he does the more scrutiny he opens himself up to.
Because of this under the radar tactic, you can’t really rate him an anything. So he gets a draw…and a question…am I reading Mark wrong?
2014 Outlook – Can he stand up to a challenge?