Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hogarth in denial - not for the first time

TIMES Blog - Stats are a crime


Chris Campbell, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows TIMES
Published: Friday, March 20, 2009
Our editorial in Tuesday's edition took issue with the whining from certain members of Maple Ridge Council (particularly Coun. Al Hogarth) in regards to the media and its coverage of crime issues.

The district conducted a phone survey on the public's satisfaction with a variety of issues, and crime was one issue people were unhappy about. It's not surprising that Hogarth is unhappy with the media these days. Our competition did a story not that long ago about an unfavourable ruling against Hogarth in regards to a tenancy dispute. The story obviously made Hogarth look bad so his sarcastic comment that said, "Of course newspapers are always accurate in everything they report," wasn't a shock.

Yes, and politicians are always truthful (see, I can be sarcastic, too). But Hogarth also made some remarks about how people are likely influenced by negative media coverage of Northumberland Court, the crime-ridden housing complex that the district seems incapable of dealing with.

Well, it's a big issue and it's been dragging on for a long time. The district is spending a lot of tax dollars and staff hours dealing with the issue so the media is going to cover it. It's a mecca for crime. So, Al, what's your point? Are we supposed to ignore it so the district won't get a negative reaction from the public? Enough with the whining. Fix the damn problem.
Then there was this quote from Councillor Mike Morden: "Crime is actually going down, not up. It's all about public perception." I can't let that quote go by unchallenged. It was a general statement so I don't know if Morden was talking about national crime rates or Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows crime rates.

Sure, it's true that crime is technically going down across the country, which is great. As a citizen, I'm happy about that. But you have to analyze the numbers to see exactly what that means. We tried to get the most up-to-date stats from the local police, but they were unable to supply those by our deadline. However, according to MacLean's Magazine's March 16th edition, Maple Ridge ranked in the top-10 nationally for the worst communities for both breaking and entering, AND auto theft.

Not exactly something to brag about, is it? I also went back to the last Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows statistics I had available to show how the stats are a matter of perception.
In 2007, there were 363 commercial break and enters compared to 323 in 2006, an 11-per-cent increase. There were 290 residential break and enters in 2007, compared to 373 in 2006, a 22-per-cent drop. There was also a minute drop in vehicle thefts between 2007 and 2006 - 757 vehicle thefts in 2006 and 746 in 2007.

Meanwhile, theft from vehicles increased by about nine per cent, from 1,535 in 2006 to 1,693 in 2007. Possession of stolen property cases declined by 43 per cent from 190 in 2006 to 108 in 2007. Fraud cases decreased from 400 in 2006 to 313 in 2007. Mischief cases stayed very close at 1,197 in 2006 compared to 1,192 in 2007.

Robberies jumped by 40 per cent from 47 in 2006 to 78 in 2007. Sexual assaults went down by 11 per cent. There were 61 sexual assaults in 2006 compared to 54 in 2007. So, yes, overall crime numbers might be going down, but as these stats reveal, certain types of crimes can also increase while the overall numbers drop.

Commercial break and enters jumped over the period listed above so if you asked a business owner if they felt crime was falling, they'd likely think that wasn't the case. You see, it's all a matter of perception. And here is one essential point to mention. According to many business owners we've interviewed during the past couple of years, some commercial victims of crime are NOT reporting the crimes because they don't see the point. Many owners have simply given up reporting it.

If that is the case, then it will skew the numbers.

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