Thursday, July 26, 2007

Event: Flint crime rate improves, but why?

The Flint Police Department is making much out of the decrease in crime so far this year, extrapolating on wide reaching economic and cultural differences to account for the change:

Increased patrols, the reopening of the city jail this year and increased partnerships with other police agencies have all contributed to Flint's improved numbers, Hagler said.

While these are all promising developments, Flint is not large enough to cancel out the margin of error due to such adjustments. I suspect that the circumstances are more local than Police Chief Hagler suggests. Last year's murder spike, for example, was largely related to a rap feud that involved four or five homicides in a two month period. The crime rate isn't usually that bad. This year's decrease is just as likely to be determined by policy externalities. Certainly the economoic solvency of the city and funding of municipal services (like the police department) haven't changed so dramatically as to account for the extent of improvement.

I'm not critical of the policy adjustments that the administration has made for 2007, but I think that the resulting rhetoric is DIY to a reckless extreme. Flint's best-case scenario crime rate is abominable compared to rest of the country. As such, we should concentrate ongoing pressure to alleviate the economic conditions that prompt violent crime in the first place. That is, in the long run, the only solution to Flint's crime woes.

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