Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rising Crime Rate in Atlanta. Blame ice cream sales, or do we just need more feet on the street?

If you live in Atlanta, you've probably noticed a raise in violent crime over the last 3 months. Every week a new murder leads the media coverage train. So why is crime in Atlanta on the rise (22% up from 2005).

Is it a national trend? Possibly, the national violent crime rate is up 3%, but we're way ahead of the curve in that regards. And it doesn't appear to be seasonal --as I've tried to rationalize it that way to my slightly paranoid fiancée.

Historically the murder rate has always trended positively with an increase Ice Cream sales. In poly-sci 101 this was known as a false causation -- ie. correlation does not imply causation. Murder Rate really trends with the weather. As the daily temperature increases so does the murder rate. And when the temperature goes up, so does ice cream consumption. These two completely unrelated phenomena are actually correlated on the same variable. This was covered in depth in the excellent book "Freakonomics."

So, now the question is what does all this have to do with Atlanta. Well, there's another trend that is worth looking at, and that has to do with the number of police officers actively patrolling a city. It may not be a surprise, but Atlanta has dramatically fewer police officers per 1000 people than other, safer major metropolitan cities -- Atlanta currently has 3.5 police officers per 1,000 residents vs. 4.5 per 1000 in New York (according to creative loafing). Combine this with a dramatic increase in the ITP population over the last five years, which is leading to rapid gentrification of lightly policed areas, and now you have a potent mix for violent crime.

What to do? Well, Chief Pennington needs to start making his mark. He's re-organized the narcotics force and supposedly been tackling corruption. Now it's time to go back the basics. We need more cops on the street and we need better communication with rapidly gentrifying communities.

Its not rocket science, but it will make our city safer and ensure that ATL can continue it's rapid growth.

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