Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shots Fired

I was interested to hear the details of the news conference yesterday in the basement of the police department. Officials were responding to Trentonian writer, Jack Knarr's Tuesday story about how the police department is under-reporting crime in the city. Those of us living in the city suspect this may be true. I personally suspect it's true: I put together a weekly map of violent crime, only using what's been reported to the papers, and on occasion, I will include credible tips from the community. When I see more crimes from my window than I do reported in the paper, I know something's terribly wrong.

It seems particularly hateful for a Johnny-Come-Lately like me to keep track of crime in this city, especially when officials claim "Crime is Down," but unlike the mayor and the police director, I actually LIVE in this city — with no regrets, mind you. Sure, overall, in the world, considering how many people now live on this planet, I do think perhaps crime is down, statistically, in the world. There are lawless pockets of our globe, and there are some ugly wars going on, but I think we live in a friendlier, more intelligent, more aware, more responsible world than folks of generations past. But looking at Trenton from an outsider's point-of-view, Trenton looks like a failed state: The population of Trenton has decreased. People have moved away. The birth rates are down. Services are not always provided. There's been a sharp economic decline. The surrounding municipalities have stepped up patrols on our borders. Our elected representatives have not been representing us, but rather, providing the rubber stamp of approval for a self-serving mayor who thinks he's above the law. And given our size and population, crime is NOT down.*

The picture I just painted of Trenton seems bleak, but I know that nothing is given, nothing is permanent. I enjoy a bit of risk, and I dunno, life in the suburbs seems so sterile and empty. There should be more to life than that. So, regarding Trenton, things can change for the better; and I feel that good people here far outweigh the bad ones. We have a rich and colorful history; we're well-situated geographically; and I hope, I hope, I hope there's no where to go but up. But moving up requires honest, respectful assessment of our woes, and crime is one of our biggest. I work on the crime map because, in my opinion, an informed populace is a strong one. Information helps us to be more aware of our surroundings. Information encourages us to speak to one another, and hopefully EVERYONE knows we're talking; everyone being the officials who are keeping us in the dark, as well as the criminals who commit their deviant acts in our neighborhoods. It gives us fuel to speak in unison, and a whole bunch of voices saying the same thing are hard to ignore.

So. The news conference. Apparently all of us in the city — residents and newspaper reporters alike — have somehow missed the fact that the police have been posting their crime map to the city's website. I've spent A LOT of time poking around the city's somewhat counterintuitive site, and have never seen the crime map before, and I don't believe it has ever been posted before, hm, maybe yesterday. It's apparent that this city isn't super web-savvy. And, for the record, the city's website was down all weekend, because, it seemed, the city failed to renew the registration. Anyway, I was interested to see this week's police-issue crime map; it looks similar to ones I have seen, on occasion, at my CPAC meetings (East Side, yo). My first reaction was, "Whew, I'm glad the cops are releasing this stuff now, because it takes me hours to make my own, and I'd rather be doing other things."

Here's the city's map for this past week (click to enlarge, if you'd like).

Here's my map for this past week (again, click to enlarge, if you'd like).

This map is also available on the Trenton's Crime Stopper page, the Villa Park Civic Association's website,
and the Trenton Speaks Forum (in the "Police Blotter" folder).
I also deliver it via email on Monday nights. If you'd like to sign up for the list, please email me.

Remember, I'm getting my details from the paper, and I'm only tracking the physically violent crimes, that is, the crimes against other humans, not property crimes. It doesn't appear the city tracks everything, but it tracks non-violent stuff like burglaries, which is good. I wouldn't have minded tracking burglaries, too, but there's almost nothing in the papers about them, and I'm more concerned about safety.

But as I compared the two maps, my sense of relief turned to angst. We knew last week was a busy week for criminals. I marked 11 violent acts on my map, which is more than usual. I wasn't overly meticulous when counting the little icons on the city's map, and counted over 20 violent acts, including a sexual assault. A lot of the reporters at the city's papers have been on autopilot for a long time -- and some of it isn't their fault, as the industry changes, and their employers stop supplying basic tools like writing implements -- but I KNOW that if that sexual assault, and aggravated assaults, and robberies were reported to the press, those stories would have appeared in print. The lack of forthcoming on the part of the top brass at the police department and city puts us all at risk. It's deplorable.

It also seems the police didn't map the two shootings on Klag Avenue, and one of the many "events" over in the warzone that is Hoffman/Oakland/Edgemere/Stuyvesant/Hermitage (possibly the 11/3 "shots fired" where police recovered a shotgun?). Why?

From more technical standpoint, there are no specifics on the city's map either. The specifics are what takes me so long, and I feel it's critical. Everything is in the details. I'm a woman, so I'm thinking about that unreported sexual assault that took place over near S. Broad and Dye streets. There are no details. Did a woman get raped? A child molested? Was it a family member attacking another family member, or did someone get assaulted by a stranger on the way home from the train station? When did it happen? Some information would be helpful.

Yeah, it's scary stuff, but we're adults, and we can handle it. We're here because we're committed to the city. Since I've lived here, I've been very pleased with the officers I've met in meetings, and on the street. I hope the police department continues to make these maps available to the public; I hope they're expanded to include details. I'm hoping the community and the police can work more closely in the future, and that the community begins to toughen up on its own against criminals. There are plenty of non-police solutions to some of our crime, but having all of the information would certainly help.

* I just want to say, as much as I wish it were true, I detest hearing the crime is down mantra. I can only speak for myself: I am a logical, level-headed individual. I don't make stuff up. I don't overreact. Many people in this city share those characteristics. We are a good bunch of people. So, in my mind, there is only one translation for the "Crime is down, Crime is down, Crime is down" chant coming out of the mouths of officials. You have really been saying, "We don't care about your opinion. You are insignificant. You don't matter." That is appalling.

1 comment:

pbaman said...

Community leaders should be honest with their citizens about everything, including the reporting of crime. pbaman