Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where's the Highest Crime Rate - Allentown, Bethlehem or Easton?

Last Saturday's Bill White column, "Survivorman Finally Meets His Match," suggests Allentown is a pretty rough place. Survivorman is inserted into center city Allentown, where he's shot at, bitten by a pit bull, and asked to present identity papers by city councilman Lou Hershman. After barely escaping with his life, Survivorman is told he needs to pick a safer urban environment.

"Like what?"

"How about Baghdad?"

Allentonians are a divided group. On one side, there's Team Hilliard, which has challenged nearly every initiative, often in court. On the other side are those who believe Pawlowski can do no wrong. I suspect both sides are right and wrong. It's been a great debate.

But there's a third group that bothers the hell out of me. These are the elitists who insist we look at their city through rose colored glasses. The most extreme of these actually suggested we rename the Lehigh Valley the "Valley of Allentown." At the same time, those who feed the homeless are incredibly snarked as "dogooders" who "often do harm to society (especially our cities)." After being nauseated by those incredibly pompous remarks, Bill's column was a breath of fresh air.

But is Bill being too negative about the Queen City? Is Bethlehem or Easton just as bad as Allentown? Let's look at the cold hard facts.

If you compare Allentown to Bethlehem and Easton, the Lehigh Valley's two other cities, Allentown has the highest crime rate. That's just the way it is. Bethlehem's crime rate is below the national average in nearly every category, unlike Allentown.

In Easton, it's much closer, but Allentown still gets the edge.

So in the Valley of Allentown, the Queen City is our smelly armpit, like it or not. But that doesn't make Allentown a cesspool. Nearby Reading, in Berks County, actually makes Allentown look like paradise.

Allentown is actually amazingly similar to slightly larger Hartford, Connecticut, in crime statistics. Both cities are about the same distance from New York City.

Allentown is definitely the most crime-ridden city in the Lehigh Valley. But if you compare it with other similar cities, its crime problem is nothing unusual.


Anonymous said...

I don't often agree with your opinions, but you really make an effort to get the facts right. Thanks for this research.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the rate a which crime is increasing, Bethlehem is by far the fastest. This will be most evident (in most categories) next year when 2007 stats are available.

Tom Foolery said...

Crime in bethlehem is increasing because the Allentown slimeballs are running out of room..Bethlehem needs to build a wall around it. Let the scumsuckers from allentown escape into the suburbs instead..

Mr. Damien Brown said...


Ok I'll bite.

I wonder how referring to Allentown as the "armpit" of the valley would help the self-esteem of those kids you coach over at east side if they were to hear you say that?

I would like to congratulate you for winning the finger pointer award for the day. Like it or not, my implication that Allentown should not regard the poor as its number one priority in any and all situations was a suggested solution. Where are your solutions Bernie?

Do you suggest I throw up my hands, remove my "rose colored glasses" and move to Nazareth? Is that your solution?

Tom Foolery said...

Actually, Allentown is a bit further south of the armpits.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:17,

I've looked at Bethlehem's crime rate since 1999, and it has been under the national average every one of those years. That is just a fact. And unless you're in the FBI, it's hard to tell what beth's 2006 will look like because they will not be released until October. Now once the casino goes into play, we might have a new ball game.

Melissa said...

"Nearby Reading, in Berks County, actually makes Allentown look like paradise."

Yes, but to our credit we've also got that great Berks blog, The Pennsylvania Progressive. :-)

Bernie O'Hare said...


Lying to your kids doesn't help their self-esteem. When it comes to crime, Allentown is the LV's armpit, or worse. I recall you arguing about that, too. But these are the facts. This is reality, something you need to take a look at from time to time.

Before we can come up with solutions, we have to find the truth, not your elitist propaganda.

With the truth in hand, there are solutions. Contrary to whatever you have deluded yourself into thinking, poverty is Allentown's #1 problem. It's what causes that crime, the homelessness, etc. Your solution thus far has been to pretend the poor aren't there. Ignore them and maybe they'll go away. Change LANTA routes so they're not so visible. Sweep them under a rug. And those solutions are complete garbage.

The best way to address the poverty in Allentoiwn is not by praising the cameras or the Waterfront or the liquor license at JM. The best way to help the poor is to help the poor. Feed them, get them jobs and get them an education. How do you do that? Work with Alan Jennings' outfit. Encourage churches. Encourage small businesses like the ones you just snarked the past few days. Instead of giving a big tax break to a campaign contributor, give lots of little tax breaks to people on low incomes. Make sure people are aware of the CHIP program because our children are our greatest asset. Encourage LANTA to make more stops in areas inhabited by people who can't afford cars. Do everything a government can do to help these people improve their lives. Give them every reason not to turn to drugs or gangs.

Instead of working with the people you have, you've been trying to sweep them under the rug in favor of a gentrified mob that will never come.

You refuse to recognize the complete lack of compassion the city has shown to its poor. In fact, you've justified it, and are responsible for perhaps the most ignorant statement I've yet to read by a local blogger. You have forgotten the roots of the Democratic party, and what has made it great.

The end result may not be the Shangri La that you envision. But it will be a vibrant and diverse community with a little room for ecerything.

Anonymous said...

the bigger problem is that the crime is dumping out into the areas surounding alllentown especailly springhouse farms and the other higher end developments

Bernie O'Hare said...

Melissa, PaPro is great. I like John's other bog, Berks Dems, even more.

Bernie O'Hare said...


One clarification. I would not call what I do coaching. And I'm not doing it for football, only baseball and basketball. In football, east side has some football coaches who know what they're doing.

But that's another example. Instead of giving $10k to parkland's ice hockey team, more money should be found to encourage all the youth sports programs in downtown Allentown, where the help is really needed. Last year, well over 100 kids between 6 and 8 signed up for basketball. Have you ever tried to practice with 100 kids on a court?

Mr. Damien Brown said...


Have you advocated Nazareth do all of things you say Allentown should be doing?

I think it is very important to note that Allentown, its citizens, and its civic groups have been doing all that you say they should and much more for years. I am proud of that fact, but what did it get us? . . . more poor people and a weak image that has allowed us to become the punching bag of the region. Sweeping the poor under the rug is the last thing Allentown has done. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is defined as insanity.

If there is only one thing I write on this blog that you don't roll your eyes at let it be this. Telling children that their home is less or that they live in an inferior environment is very damaging to them, our city, our region, and our future.

These kids here that garbage all the time. Do you think it helps them because it is your perceived “truth.” Have you ever heard of the Sociological Perspective? In a nut shell, according to this psychological theory people acquire the dominant beliefs in their social environment in the same way that a pickle acquires the flavor of the brine in which it is soaked.

By telling these kids they live in a lesser environment you are telling them that they are less and their parents are less. As these kids grow they will fulfill the role of “less” that has been assigned to them by society.

As a coaches, mentors, and fellow citizens of these kids we should be giving them every reason to know that they are strong and well equipped for the world they will inherit. I will even take it a step further and suggest that the kids at east side be told why they are better and stronger than their competitors. There are plenty of real reasons why they are. This is how winners act.

Far too much time has been spent talking about Allentown’s problems. The time has come for its citizens to simply stand up, be strong, be proud, and know that our city is not something less but it is something better. Why else would so many people from so many other places waste so much time and energy gossiping about Allentown?

Bernie O'Hare said...


You're using a lot of social bullshit to justify propaganda. Ang guess what? We're not children. Time to be honest, Damien.

Another point that eludes you. One can be poor and still be proud. I am a perfect example. You equate self-worth with the amount of change in your pocket. You make the mistake of thinking kids do that, too. They don't. Most of them have no idea they're poor. I've seen the pride that Allentown's poor have. They are good people, and you have been trying to nudge them away. That is a big mistake.

I spend very little of my time talking about Allentown. I have only been provoked into doing so by the elitist remarks coming from you and Addicted.

Nazareth is not poor and has different problems. And yes, I speak about them. I don't look at my community through rose colored glasses.

Damien, even now, you're lying to yourself. The whole point of the LANTA move was to sweep the poor under the rug. That's what's behind the waterfront and all these other goofy attempts at gentrification.

Allentown is not doing many of the things I mentioned, contrary to your propaganda. It is not increasing the number of bus stops in places where people can't afford cars. It is not increasing educational opportunites. It is not giving lots of little tax breaks insterad of one big tax break for campaign donors. You are being dishonest, primarily with yourself.

You showed your true colors a few days ago when you actually argued against feeding the poor. It's time for you to come down to earth and embrace them.

Anonymous said...

you were poor bernie? my parents were and struggled ther way to the top working hard for everthing tey had. the lessons i learned from my father was you can be poor work hard treat peope like you want to be treated and never call names belittle or POINT FINGERS for that could be you one day. children today need for all of us to help them and teach them everyone is a worthwhile human being regardless of race religon or creed or where 1 lives lets work on that together.

Mr. Damien Brown said...


According to your logic, I am more responsible for the needs of the poor than you are because I choose to live in Allentown. That's wrong but I am ok accepting that responsibility.

You are correct that most kids don't know they are poor, but they sure do find out as soon as they are able to comprehend the concept when they hear your rhetoric.

Allentown needs to gentrify, for the sake of the poor if not for anyone else. The concentration of poverty, and/or the concentration of the psychology of poverty is the biggest hurdle in overcoming it (in America anyway).

Your finger pointing does nothing more than further the Lehigh Valley down this dead end road. Encouraging that developers not invest in Allentown (The Waterfront) to keep the area exclusively poor is ridiculous. If that is not elitist I don't know what is.

Then again, why should people of means live among the poor and share their schools, tax base, community events, and knowledge of the world when they can move to the suburbs and send back sandwiches?

Anonymous said...

mr. brown, well said !!!!

A.J. Cordi said...

But they don't send back sandwiches, and I think that's a point both sides are trying to make.

There is a lot of finger pointing, a lot of sweeping under the rug, a lot of complaining about taxes and political issues, etc., and not enough actual doing.

We can debate this issue to no end, but until we actually start getting our hands dirty and helping those who need it, we're all guilty of what we say and accuse others of. Right now, society too wrapped up in the social media (i.e. political campaigning, casinos, baseball stadiums, paris hilton, etc.) to actually be doing anything about anything.

Let's get off our asses, people!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Damien Brown and Anon 11:17,

1) I did not say I was poor. I said I am poor.

2) Poor people are everywhere, even in Nazareth, so the argument that I must relocate to Allentown is fallacious I probably could not afford to live there.

3) The term "people of means" was coined by Addicted, the other elitist.

4) I will continue to point my finger at someone who makes the disgusting statement that we should not feed the poor. A finger needs to be pointed at insensitive, mean-spirited comments like that. I must repeat that I am still insulted that someone who considers himself progressive would make such a heartless remark.

5) A finger needs to be pointed again at someone who lies about the harm caused by the LANTA relocation and elimination of bus stops. Businesses like the House of Chen have been severely damaged. But in your letter to the editor, you disingenuously huff that these are nothing more than a "few growing pains."

6) A finger needs to be pointed at an elitist who falsely claims, as you did, that the only businesses impacted would be "maybe a merchant or two on Hamilton selling overpriced junk food." What a bunch of elitist bullshit! The House of Chen? The Dollar Store? And what are they being replaced with? A publicly financed Dunkin' Donuts that amazingly does sell overpriced junk food.

7) The argument that we must lie to our kids to teach them self-esteem is so stupid that it does not deserve further comment.

8) Gentrification is a bad thing when it is accomplished by displacing the poor, and that's what you want to do. That's the motive behind the Waterfront. That's the motive behind the LANTA bus stops. That's what's going on with granting a special license to JM while giving others a rough time. Gentrification is not per se evil, but the manner in which you have dismissed the poor is alien to the altruistic nature of humanity.

9) Instead of embracing your community and all its diversity, you're trying to create a new little elite world of yuppies. And in the process, you will continue to make things difficult for the working poor and destitute. Instead of creating opportunities for the community Allentown already has, you wish to shove them aside.

In short, your world view and the way you look at your fellow man is completely alien to me. I consider it evil, to be honest. And I will continue to point my finger at your elite hypocrisy whenever I see it.

Anonymous said...

bernie, how i took the comment about not feeding the poor was completly different from yours i thought he maent instead of handing out food we should HELPING THEM find the resourses to provide for themselves. and we should.

Bernie O'Hare said...

But we don't. So now they don't get fed, either.

Mr. Damien Brown said...

Anon 12:27:

Thank you.


I think our points have been made and neither of us are going to change our minds. I'm done.

If anyone else would like to chime in I am interested in hearing your perspective.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Damien's argument is precisely the same argument the English used to justify starvation of millions in Ireland during the famine. It is heartless and mindless. Heartless because he knows it is causing pain. Mindless because he knows those people simply can't find the resouces anywhere else.

Fred said...

I don't know this Damien guy. His solution to Allentown's poor is to starve them or drive them out of Allentown. Is he some city official? He does not speak for the Ed Pawlowski that I know.

Tell him to stay away from Bethlehem.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Damien is an Allentown apologist, and his blog is Our West End Neighborhood. So far as I know, he holds no position in Allentown city government. If I am mistaken, he can correct me.

Anonymous said...

i,m sure damien can speak for himself ,but i think what was being said is not to not feed the poor rather help them find employment . help them get a n education give them the tools they need to survive. which in my few is correct. by only feeding them and doing nothing more only holds them down. in this country we can certainly do more than hand out mels. we all complain but what have you personally done to help? i have spent time with illerate people to help them read and given time and money to help feed and clothe them. as a society we all can together make a better safer world and that my friend includes damien to he is one of us. we are all brothers and sisters we can work together. people always have differnces of opions that is what makes the world go round and somewhere in the middle we have a meeting of the minds hopefully.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I understand all too well. When someone is standing with his hand out, undergoing the indignity of asking you for food, do you have any idea how insulting it is to tell that person, "Get a job." ?

That, in essence, is what you and Damien are both saying, and it's both heartless and mindless. Of course, you want to be able to help people so they don't have to ask for handouts. But when they need help, it should be there. Eliminating those sandwiches does not eliminate the hunger or the need. Eliminating bus stops does not solve Allentown's poverty problem either.

I judge government by how it takes care of the young, the needy and the old. And I judge people the same way.

How has Damien helped those businesses he has snarked? They are being thrown into oblivion, and he doesn't give a flying f--- because they don't fit his picture of how Allentown should appear. Is that how he teaches people to take care of themselves?

Anonymous said...

i to understand what you are saying WE SHOULD FEED THE NEEDY THE OLD AND ANYONE WHO NEEDS IT!!!!also we should HELP THEM IN ALL FACETS OF LIFE is all i'm saying i no how awful awful and undignified it is to ask for a handout and i'm GRATEFULL everyday for my good fortune but it wasn't handed to me ' my parents instilled a good work ethic in there children we learned young if we wanted something we had to work for it. i'm merly suggesting we offer the means to help people on there feet. i don't belive anyone would say to needy person GET A JOB. but rather say here you go what do need , lets help you find work or whatever the need is that needs to be met. there are also the working poor we all try our best. i don't belive in kicking a dog when it's down either bernie. i thank god everyday for his blessing upon me.have a nice day. keep up the good works you do. take care

Anonymous said...

Bernie, lighten up on Damien. He has all those pretty little flags to throw up around the theater district. Next he's getting banners for the crack and the hooker districts.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't have a problem with those banners. And I don't want to make fun of Damien. He is very sincere, but I'm very disappointed by his insensitive remarks about the poor and small struggling businesses.

Anonymous said...

BO, Allentown must be pinkos, based on the color in the graph. That makes it a commie district.

Blue Coyote said...

Dear Mr. Brown,

Although Bernie O'Hare does not need assistance in this matter, I felt compelled to write to you. As a proponent of gentrification, you focus on the benefits of urban renewal, such as renewed investment in physically deteriorating locales, improved access to lending capital for low-income mortgage seekers as their property values increase, increased rates of lending to minority and first-time home purchasers to invest in the now-appreciating area and improved physical conditions for renters. This is often initiated by private capital, with gentrification linked to reductions in crime rates, increased property values, increased tolerance of sexual minorities, and renewed community activism.

Critics of gentrification, such as Bernie O'Hare, often cite the human cost to the neighborhood's lower-class residents when debating the topic. They expound that the increases in rent often sparks the dispersal of communities whose members find that housing in the area is no longer affordable, such as the elderly. Additionally, the increase in property taxes may sometimes force or give incentive for homeowners to sell their homes and seek refuge in less expensive neighborhoods.

While those who view gentrification as a positive phenomenon praise its effect on neighborhood's crime rates, those with different paradigms believe that the crime has not truly been reduced, but merely shifted to different lower-income neighborhoods.

Please, do both you and I a favor before you respond back to me. Read "Shame of the Cities: Gentrification in the New Urban America" which can be found here -

A.J. Cordi tried to say something but forgot to tell us what we can do. What we can do is attempt to control gentrification by:

1. Community organizations
2. Inclusionary zoning
3. Zoning ordinances
4. Community land trusts
5. Rent control
6. Public education partnerships

There was a symposium in Washington D.C. not to long ago regarding this specific topic. One of the speakers said emphatically, "There is a difference between gentrification and revitalization." I hope you know the difference. There is a way to create positive civic change WITH the inclusion of everyone. God bless.

Dottie said...

Bernie, I've been reading about this issue here and over at LVPoliblog. Here's my opinion: I am pretty much a "bleeding heart liberal" and I believe it is important to feed the poor, volunteer in any way to help children. I taught inner-city kids who would come to school hungry and without coats in the winter. It was necessary to feed them so they could learn. I felt a moral responsibility to help them as much as I could. I can also understand how some people might agree with Damien's point of view. It would help if the poor people had a nice city to be proud of, nice schools with modern facilities, etc. but at the same time pride and confidence must come from within, and be taught to kids by good role models. Education is a way out of poverty.
I know this post is about crime and I would like to say that there have been a lot of burglaries in my part of town (near the allentown theatre district) and it is very disappointing.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I'm sorry to hear about the burglaries in your west end neighborhood. When the FBI stats come out for 2006, which will be some time in October, I want to see if I can get a break down by zip code. It would be very interesting to see if certain areas of our LV cities have more crime than others. I's also like to compare crime in the cities to crime in the 'burbs. Some folks claim crime there is just as bad. I don't think that's true, but want to see the facts.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Blue Coyote,

As usual, you said more in one comment than I said in one post and 12 comments.

I appreciate the article you mention and particularly like the idea of development without displacement. That's where Allentown is screwing up. On the waterfront, it is displacing existing manufacturing jobs to create a yuppie paradise in a floodplain. Similarly, the LANTA restructure is obviously intended to displace a few businesses and to make life more burdensome for some people who now must walk longer distances to get to a bus. Some of these people are the elderly and very young.

Community involvement is kept at a minimum, with the end result being that people don't even know what has happened until it is too late.

This could never happen in Easton, where citizens and the folks at Easton Undressed keep a very careful eye on their local government. I don't think it could happen in Bethlehem, where the government bends over backwards to be transparent.

But it's already happened in Allentown. I credit MM for casting a public spotlight on the problem. For all the criticism I have directed at him when I thought he was wrong, I need to acknowledge and credit his vigilance in this matter. I think Maddy should take him out on the town.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but Bill wasn't comparing Allentown to the other (smaller) cities in the Valley, or even to Reading.
He was comparing it to Baghdad. I've known some spooked suburbanites who would find that an apt comparison.

jake said...

As I recall reading in the MC years ago, Allentown has an about average Suicide rate among White Males in their teens to 30 something. You could drive me around the region Blindfolded and I could tell you when I was in that city. There is something very dark about Allentown. Sort of some Black Hole energy that suck the goodness out of people. I am not alone in this feeling. I have often felt that Anthropologist should study the phenomenon. Then bring Shamans from all over the world to Bless the Place. It is a spiritual sink hole. Oh I forgot, it had a big sink hole down town.

Chris Casey said...

You know, maybe the Gross Towers explosion wasn't what we thought. Maybe it was a portal to Hell, and is still open, sucking the Soul out of the city!

Anonymous said...

bernie, you said feed the poor, get them jobs and get them an education. wait a minute,feed the poor is an honorable task but short term pauls in allentown feeds the poor and also those that dont want to spend for lunch. get them a job? that means they gotta get up and work as scheduled.many are fired for poor attendance. get them an education? how do you give an education? they gotta read and study and listen to teachers ,its a joke in classrooms many students doodle,dont focus futz around plus are a distraction to those that want to learn. get real,the truth is theirs the culture of being poor that dooms them to life long struggles and bringing along for the ride kids out of wedlock they cant support. child abuse in my book.

jake said...

I lived in downtown Allentown for a year after graduating from College. When I moved out of state after that year the Mall canopy project was being built. When I moved back 15 years later and went to downtown Allentown, it was one of the most depressing experiences. This whole downtown redevelopment has been in critical condition for decades. It seems to have become a bonanza for consultants and a cottage industry surviving on Grants for any person who can play the shell game. I recently had dinner with someone involved in the downtown development and they told me that the Gay People, considered a major stabilizing and civilizing factor in renovations and redevelopment of housing, are getting restless and many are considering moving out of the city because of it's disturbing condition.
I just think that Allentown is cursed and will not recover from the sink hole it is in. It is a shame, however ,Bethlehem is light years ahead. It is sad to see what Allentown has become.

Bernie- something is going right on getting logged in.

Bernie O'Hare said...


Finally! You've been able to post. And there may be something to what you are saying. The Chinese call it qi, and the goal of feng shui is to build on spots with good qi. It sounds ridiculous to westerners, but so did accupuncture. We don't know everything.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:59, It's easy to make generalizations, and it's a lot harder to sit down and do what is right. Just as you can't force someone to eat, you can't force someone to learn or to work, either. The best way to do that is to create an environment in which people want to work or want an education.

Some people may reject education because they don't see it as getting them anywhere. So that environment has to change. Wht does the person feel that way? Is it because his or her parents got nowhere? Is it because he feels he can't do it?

Some people reject work and I ask why? Is it because they can make more selling drugs?

But you don't wash your hands of a situation just because it does not always work.

A.J. Cordi said...

Bernie, the Chinese (Asians) are among the worlds oldest populations. I'll never fully understand why we don't trust their methods more often. But that doesn't really have anything to do with this topic, lol.

river said...

Take away the Gangs and the drugs and the crime rate will drop 50% and the murder rate will drop 90%. nufsaid

river said...

Bernie said
1) "I did not say I was poor. I said I am poor. " Bernie I am poor too because of a health condition. How much did you earn last year? If you can ride a bicycle 12 miles to the NCGC in Easton and back again to Nazareth you must be in fairly good health. What is your dollar amout for 2006 which is your determination of being poor? thank you. You have my email if you wish to answer that way. Thanks.

river said...

Dottie, I agree with you 100%. Education is the key. Even a kid in poverty can go to college for free as long as he has good grades. Unfortunatly some kids see MTV and have gangs in their area that promis all the easy money by pimping and selling drugs on the stret corner. 13 and 14 year old kids joining gangs because the leader says they can make $500 a day selling crack on the street corner. Prostitutes making $800 bucks a night. That is the problem right now. How on earth can we solve that. Gangs seem like they are taking over a lot of areas, be it poor or rich.

river said...

Bernie... you are the first attorney I ever heard to say he was poor. What ever happened to all those $100 per hour fees? :):)

river said...

correction "is poor"

Bernie O'Hare said...


I am, as you must know, an ex-lawyer.

The daily bike rides were two years ago. Thanks to a nasty shoulder injury, I am very much out of shape and the road to recovery is a long one.

I say I'm poor because I have no money.

river said...

Hi Bernie.. I am poor too. I am barely getting by and living on my good looks is not working out very well. My 2006 income was about $7000

Anonymous said...

Just a simple comment, I don't feel like engaging in this past debate.

In the future, would you please have the numbers attached to your charted statistics?


Bernie O'Hare said...

Next time I post this topic, I'll do so.


I found this blog while searching real estate & crime rates in YOUR VALLEY. I live on City Avenue near St. Joseph's University and I never feel safe. Murder,theft,robbery, drugs, and many other crimes are common here and many of the Police Officers are just GANGSTER/THUGS with a badge. Any area in the Lehigh Valley is better than here. Quit your bitchin' and count you blessings! I'm stuck in HELL!