How can there be a declining crime rate in a city with so much murder? Who's right, Mayor Ed or moms? Believe it or not, both.
Pawlowski critics knowingly whisper that crime figures are being manipulated, but that's ridiculous. That would require a massive conspiracy between police and mayor, which could never remain secret for long. Mayors and cops hate each other too much.
Pawlowski's right. Allentown's crime rate has fallen over the last 18 months. But sadly, that's no reason for good cheer. Using the same Pennsylvania State Police data relied on by Allentown leaders, the crime rate is just 0.02% below its average over the past eight years. That's no basis for concluding there's light at the end of the tunnel.
At least it's going in the right direction, you might say, and that's true. But those center city moms are still right to trust their own eyes and ears over what Pawlowski tells them from his portable podium.
Here's why. Nobody, from mayor's office to The Morning Call, has bothered to look at the "clearance rate," i.e. the success rate, or rate at which police actually investigate and identify a bad guy. That's gone down, too, and that's very bad news. A falling clearance rate means more criminals are on the street. It means law enforcement is increasingly unable to investigate or prosecute criminal activity.
Allentown's clearance rate this year is 7.5% lower than it was at this time last year. Only 11 of 67 firearms robberies have been solved. Burglaries? Just 2 of 60 reported burglaries are resolved. And so it goes. Police have "cleared," i.e. solved, only 33% of the crime reported so far this year. With a 33% success rate, can anyone claim Allentown cops have taken a bite out of crime? Let's look at the facts since 2000, when state police started collecting data.
2000: 13,205 of 17,445 reported crimes are solved (76% success rate)
2001: 13,035 of 17,277 reported crimes are solved (75% success rate)
2002: 13,385 of 17,297 reported crimes are solved (77% success rate)
2003: 12,587 of 18.025 reported crimes are solved (70% success rate)
2004: 7,194 of 18,304 reported crimes are solved (39% success rate)
2005: 6,487 of 18,366 reported crimes are solved (35% success rate)
2006: 6,123 of 19,072 reported crimes are solved (32% success rate)
2007: 5,822 of 17,383 reported crimes are solved (33% success rate)
From these figures, it's apparent that Allentown's finest had a remarkable record between 2000 and 2003. That suddenly changed in 2004, when its success rate dropped to 39%. Is that when a manpower drain started? I don't know. But when police somehow lose the ability to investigate, criminal presence necessarily increases, especially in "high crime" neighborhoods. This, of course, leads to more violence and undoubtedly explains why Allentown has such a high homicide rate. That's how you can get an increased homicide rate in the face of a falling crime rate.
Mayor Pawlowski has yet to release the details of his new policing program. Preliminary indications, however, are that police will stop sending patrol cars to investigate minor crimes like auto vandalism and theft. That's a mistake, if true. This disastrous policy will result in more unsolved crime, more criminals on the street, more violence and a higher murder rate. No matter how far the crime rate falls, people will feel insecure, and for good reason.
Police need to be doing what they were doing between 2000 and 2003 - solving crime. The best way to ensure that is to hire more of them.