Archive for the ‘Public Safety’ Category

>Western Tribune column Clearance Rates and Public Safety

July 8, 2009

>There are a number of people concerned about crime in our city who are not swayed by the illusion of safety that the mayor extols. Two weeks ago I shared information which compared Bessemer’s crime rates with other similar sized cities in our state. Bessemer didn’t look too good.

But what about response to crime? During this decade, has Bessemer’s “clearance rate” improved? A crime is considered cleared when enough evidence is found to charge a suspect and take him or her into custody. Clearance rate is the number of clearances divided by the number of reported crimes.

Bessemer’s clearance rates are down, in some categories, significantly. For rape, the clearance rate dropped from 38% to 15% between 2000 and 2008. For assault, the drop was from 35% to 12%. In all categories except larceny clearance rates dropped.

After getting over the realization that only 15% of rapes are solved, we compared clearance rates to the other cities of similar size.

Bessemer has the lowest clearance rate for assault, and the second or third lowest for all other crimes when compared to the other cities. And since the year 2000, our ranking compared to those cities has gone down in every category except rape, which remains unchanged.

The data from which these comparisons were made are available from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center at their web site (Alabama Criminal Justice Center).

The scary thing about this is that when confronted with the facts, some of our leaders either ignore or purposely disregard them. What they do not realize is that their indifference is putting the citizens of their city in continued danger.

We are publicizing these statistics not to embarrass city officials or the men and women who protect us; rather it is out of concern for our families and neighbors. We realize that the police officers do not make policy and we see them doing their duty diligently every day.

Our city has a reputation that in the past I have refuted, but now I am beginning to think the reputation may be deserved. To overcome this, we need a paradigm shift in the way our city is led, and in the way we approach public safety.

But after attending several Town Hall meetings and listening to our mayor, I guess we will have to wait until 2010. Voters, get ready.

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>How Safe is Bessemer? Western Tribune Column

June 24, 2009

>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.

>Public Safety: Western Tribune Column June 10, 2009

June 10, 2009

>Just hours after, and a few blocks away from, the Mayor’s town hall meeting on Bessemer’s south side last week perception occurred. That’s what the Mayor attributed the insecurity to that many residents are feeling since another home invasion and abduction occurred in the area two months ago.

He said that the perception that public safety is a problem is based on historical crime rates and high profile crimes such as the bombing at City Hall that took place in 1979. Bessemer’s reputation as an unsafe place stems from that era, he said.

Although the victims of several crimes pressed the Mayor for an appropriate response he never really answered the questions posed, instead choosing to shift the focus to those who aired their concerns. After all, perception can just be a figment of the mind. Is the crime around us just our imagination?

Ask the seven Hispanics whose home was invaded the night of the town hall meeting. One of the victims is pregnant and was told her baby would be killed. The victim of the other home invasion was told he would be killed, and was fortunate to escape. Perception is reality for these people.

I don’t have an answer for the crime problem in Bessemer, if I did, I would be the mayor. But those of us who vote expect our elected officials to come up with solutions to problems, not to ignore them, and not to demean those who are concerned by claiming they are ashamed of Bessemer and are part of the problem because they are spreading negativity. That is the perception I came away from the meeting with.

Unlike the previous home invasion, this crime was in the news within hours. Did circumstances dictate the publicity (did a news crew happen to be nearby) or has the police department learned from the strong response from the public after the first home invasion was kept out of the news?

And speaking of the first home invasion, surveillance photos were eventually released and seen online and in the newspapers and on television. There is an indication that the criminals are from the area because of something they said. Someone knows who they are, but are not telling.

Those are the people who are contributing to the reality that crime is a growing problem here, not the home and business owners who voice their concerns about their safety.

>Are we sitting ducks?

June 9, 2009

>Busy Day.

Interesting Tweets.

Adam Lambert reveals he’s gay. Now that didn’t take a rocket scientist.

No wonder Angelina has a difficult relationship with her dad .

The Republican party is male, pale and stale.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22425001/vp/31083578#31083578

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

And in Bessemer:

I am not the only voter (and that’s what we are,voters) who feels that public safety is being ignored. A voter friend of mine sent an email to the chief of police. He gave me permission to print it. I am leaving out some identifying parts. Emphasis is mine.

Chief, what is being done to curb violent crime in our city? There have been two successful home invasions and several that have been attempted. It is true that some crime has been on the decline. It seems crimes against people have been on the increase in recent months. Whether or not the slumping economy has anything to do with recent events is irrelevant to the people who reside in your jurisdiction. We must be protected!

**************************************************. We spend alot of time outside and rarely see police cruisers patrolling the area. I come home from work between 12 and 1am every day. At least 3 days out of the week there are 2-4 patrol cars sitting at the Kangaroo on hwy 150. You told me in a sit down that we had that businesses have to be checked also at night. 90% of them are closed at night.

If everyone moves from the city for fear of being shot, robbed or burned in their car where will the revenue for the businesses come from? It seems that as a public official that the best interest of the the citizens would be your priority, not businesses whose owners mostly live elsewhere. I for one will protect my family with any force necessary. *********************************** It is a helpless feeling when things are occurring all over the city and you know your family is a sitting duck.

The city of Bessemer could be a great place to live, like it was long ago. The city needs help from the police to be the city it once was. I think I speak for most law abiding citizens of Bessemer when I beg you to increase patrols and enforce speeding and sound ordinances in residential areas. If the police become a nuisance to criminals hopefully they will avoid our city when looking to commit crime!

I hope the chief and mayor and council members get it. So far they haven’t.