Taking a Balanced View on Crime
July 22, 2009 5:07 PM
Crime is down in Madison. According to Uniform Crime Report data released today, compared to last year violent crime is down almost 10% and overall crime is down over 14% over the last six months. Burglaries are down a whopping 53%, mostly thanks to some good work on the part of the Madison Police Department. Aggravated assault and rape are down and we've had one murder so far all year. And, while today's release provides just a snapshot, we know the crime rate is lower now than it was during the period when we were named the Best Place to Live in America (1996) and the Best Mid-Size Place to Live in America (1997) by Money Magazine.
But, that doesn't mean that the police chief or I don't care a lot about and hear a lot from citizens about crime. In some cases that's because they've been the victim of a crime themselves or know someone who has been a victim. Sometimes it's because they live in a neighborhood that has seen an increase in crime even as the city as a whole has seen crime go down. That's understandable - perceptions of crime are very powerful and important for us to address.
But what I take exception to is the few people that see an opportunity to keep us from working on other projects that they don't want to see happen. It's as if the very fact that anyone in city government is working on other issues in addition to public safety means that our priorities are misplaced, ignoring the fact that we really can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.
We can have a nuanced view on this. To note and even to celebrate the fact that crime is down and that we are overall a very safe city is not to dismiss the real concerns some of us have about crime because it has touched our lives or impacted our own neighborhoods. When crime has impacted you, the rate is 100% regardless of what the abstract citywide numbers say.
But to ignore today's good citywide news on crime is to be just as blind to reality as it would be to dismiss the localized problems. Instead, it seems to me that what we need to do is to both acknowledge the safety of Madison as a whole while we work hard to address the very real issues of crime that we have in some parts of our city.