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After I authored this post challenging mayoral candidate Steve Francis’ claim that our “neighborhoods are suffering from a rise in crime,” his campaign consultant, Charles Gallagher, send me a memo that contained a third explanation of the statement.
Here’s an excerpt:
Crime statistics reflect crime that is reported. Fewer sworn officers available for community patrol shifts, and fewer officers available to respond to 9-1-1 and suspicious activity calls may create conditions where more crime will occur in certain areas, and more crime will go unreported. Despite public pronouncements in overall reductions in crime, 48 of San Diego’s neighborhoods have seen rises in violent crime during the Sanders Administration, which begs the question, why is this occurring?
You’ll remember that when I initially inquired regarding the statement on the rise in crime, the Francis campaign referred me to total incidents of crime — saying that total incidents of crime are higher now than they were in 1973. That is a true statement, but San Diego’s population has come close to doubling in that time. (To be specific, total incidents of crime jumped 13 percent from 1973 to 2006, while the total population jumped 81 percent.) The campaign also cited four specific neighborhoods as having experienced a rise in crime.
In his follow-up memo, Gallagher went on to note that cops aren’t being paid market rates and said that Francis urges Mayor Jerry Sanders to pay “wages the officers deserve.” Gallagher didn’t specify how much that should be; Mayor Jerry Sanders gave officers between an 8 percent and 9 percent raise last year and has signaled his intent to give them raises again this year.
As for my previous post, I checked with Stuart Henry, a criminologist and director of the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University to see if I was off-base. This is what he had to say:
Your argument criticizing Francis’s data is very accurate. Raw number rises are of no value in assessing crime rates. The standard measure of crime accepted by criminologists and policy makers is the crimes per 100,000 of the population, or the victimization data per 1000 of the population. Crime rates nationwide, and in San Diego have been falling since 2001 at about 5% per year. Sure they rose between 1973 and the mid 1980s and then again in mid-1990s when they peaked. Current crime rates per 100,000 are in fact at the same levels as they were in 1973, which is the lowest they have been since then and 1910.
However, it is a standard practice for conservative politicians to try to whip up fear about crime as a means of getting support for their “get tough on crime” policies. Finally, that some neighborhoods have increased crimes is true, but that is always the case; it does not make it a trend.