Monday, July 28, 2008

Lehigh Valley's Urban Police - No Success Story

Politicians are always quick to take credit for a falling crime rate, no matter how brief or minor. Nobody, however, is paying much attention to another important measure - the success rate, technically called the "clearance rate." How good are local cops at identifying and catching the bad guys? According to data collected Pennsylvania State Police, it's an abysmal record. On Friday, I told you Allentown's clearance rate has fallen, from an astonishing 77% in 2002, to a depressing 33% in 2007. How do these figures compare with the Lehigh Valley's two other cities - Bethlehem and Easton?

Bethlehem

2000: 3,016 of 6,536 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (46% success rate)

2001: 3,506 of 6,729 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (52% success rate)

2002: 3,468 of 6,763 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (51% success rate)

2003: 3,241 of 6,301 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (51% success rate)

2004: 3,569 of 6,916 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (52% success rate)

2005: 3,741 of 7,296 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (51% success rate)

2006: 3,643 of 7,370 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (49% success rate)

2007: 2.852 of 6,947 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (41% success rate)

Easton

2000: 600 of 3,757 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (18% success rate)

2001: 881 of 4,271 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (19% success rate)

2002: 945 of 4,567 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (21% success rate)

2003: 1,030 of 5,386 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (19% success rate)

2004: 955 of 5,376 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (18% success rate)

2005: 894 of 5,424 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (16% success rate)

2006: 1,621 of 5,822 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (28% success rate)

2007: 1,521 of 5,531 reported crimes are cleared, i.e. solved (28% success rate)

Analysis

They're all pretty pathetic. Of the Lehigh Valley's three cities, Allentown has historically had the most effective police department. But something has happened. It's success rate suddenly dropped from 77% to 39% in 2004, and it now hovers at arounbd 33%. Allentown obviously lacks the public safety resources it once possessed. Bethlehem, while the most consistent of the three cities, only solves about half of the offenses reported. Easton's police department has had a poor reputation, and its poor performane explains why. Fortunately, Easton is improving. Unfortunately, Easton is the only one on its way up.

22 comments:

Bill Villa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What is your analysis of the dramatic rise in reported crime in Bethlehem?

Is the city becoming complacent?

Anonymous said...

Bernie when are you ever going to support the PD's!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have no explanation. I suspect some of the increased crime may be the resulty of an increased population over the last 8 years.

But the intent of my post is not to exonerate Bethlehem or Easton and point the finger at Allentown. The point of my post is that ALL three urban centers need to do much better.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Bernie when are you ever going to support the PD's!

The best way to support them is to tell the truth about them. This is hard data, compiled by the state police, that tells the truth. Do you propose supporting PDs by hiding the truth?

Easton has an abysmal success rate. A-town has experienced a dramatic drop in its solve rate. Bethlehem, which will soon have a casino, is going in the wrong direction already.

The reason this data is collected is so that people can look at them, identify trends and react.

Is anyone looking at the clearance rate? Why do we have all these stories about A-town's crime rates and not one about the dramatic drop in solving crime. Why has Easton's clearance rate been so horrible for so long? Why is Bethlehem going the wrong way?

Anonymous said...

The population of Bethlehem certainly wasn't 11% over the last year, so that can't be it.

The Morning Call gives Bethlehem a constant pass with Matt Assad and his weekly cool aid stories. It is starting to hurt our city. A lot of problems are not being talked about and they are only going to get worse with the casino!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Between 2000 and 2007, crime has risen 6.2% in Bethlehem and 32.0% in Easton. It has simultaneously dropped 0.02% in A-town. Looking at the crime rates in a vacuum, we could say A-town is doing well. But looking at populations and a dropped success rate, it appears that the urban cores of the LV are very much in trouble. It is not just A-town. Of the three cities, the most troublking is actually Easton. It has made the most improvement, but it has the farthest to go.

Anonymous said...

Lies, dam lies & statistics!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lies, dam lies & statistics! ... and blogs.

If these are meaningless, then why is the information being gathered?

Anonymous said...

Are there numbers just for crimes against persons (assault,rape, murder, car jacking, ect.)? The reason I ask is that many crimes against property (vandalism, and other nuisance crimes) are never solved. My car was vandalized one time and I called the police. IT was a crime that made the paper, yet it was never solved.

The numbers you post are interesting, however I want to see numbers for violent crimes and gun crimes, much like the murder numbers you have below.

I think Bethlehem and Easton may have better numbers when you look at those crimes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you click on the Pa. State Police link in my post, it will take you to the crime data. It is broken down in every way imaginable. I'll do a comparison on the violent crimes. According to A-town, it is doing much better with that. Good suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Nothing but bullshit

Anonymous said...

Lies, dam lies & statistics!

Statistics/information is collected and presented to satisfy the egos of the management that need it to prove the value of their job. If the citizens of these neighborhoods feel and are safer, the statistics are an accurate reflection of what is going on the streets. If they just manipulated information, not inaccurate, to reflect the results desired, and then they are useless!

Anonymous said...

Allentown traditionally has had relatively low violent crime rates but rather high rates of property crime.

Anonymous said...

It is rather amusing to see how everyone is discussing different reasons why the statistical crime drop in Allentown must be false.

It almost appears that members of the Lehigh Valley community celebrate its perceived demise and become disappointed when they hear news to the contrary.

Now if this "clearance rate" improves what will be the next set of criteria you people use to hate your city?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are confusing constructive criticism with hate. There is a big difference between the two.

All three urban centers in the LV have problems, but they appear to be different.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Easton, lived there half my adult life, and still visit on a weekly basis to see my mother.

Easton used to have a couple of rough neighborhoods where you feared for your safety after dark. Now, even College Hill is not safe and the former stability of West Ward is a pre-Gang War joke.

Recoil from the statistics if you like. Then, go stand on principle and stroll through West Ward and Dutchtown without body armor after dark.

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

Anonymous said...

Within the UCR Program, law enforcement agencies can clear, or "close," offenses in one of two ways: by arrest or by exceptional means. Agencies may administratively close a case, but this does not necessarily mean that the agency can clear the offense for UCR purposes. To clear an offense within the Program's guidelines, the reporting agency must adhere to certain criteria, which are outlined in the following text. (Note: The UCR Program does not distinguish between offenses cleared by arrest and those cleared by exceptional means in its data presentations. The distinction is made solely for the purpose of a definition and not for data collection and publication.)

Overview
Nationwide in 2005, 45.5 percent of violent crimes and 16.3 percent of property crimes were cleared by arrest or exceptional means.
Of the violent crimes of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, murder had the highest percentage—62.1 percent—of offenses cleared.
Of the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft, burglary was the offense least often cleared with 12.7 percent cleared by arrest or exceptional means.
Nationwide in 2005, 42.2 percent of arson offenses cleared by arrest or exceptional means involved juveniles, the highest percentage of all offense clearances involving only juveniles.

This is from the fbi.gov website. This is why the "blanket clearance rate" doesn't work...if we're talking property crimes, apd is doing a great job...if we're talking just violent crimes (which i'm sure you're not" apd is doing less than average. if you average the two out...it looks like apd is right on par with the rest of the nation.

Anonymous said...

so the real story is...where did that 77% come from in 2002? either we had a bunch of elliot ness' running around apd or those number were way off.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thank you for your comment.

You can check the numbers yourself by clicking on the state police link. In 2007, there were 827 nonviolent crimes. 106 were cleared. That's 12.9%.For violent crimes, clearance was around 53%, much higher. I do not know how this corresponds w/ tha nat'l average in '07. Those figures seem lower, but not much.

Here's what bothers me about A-town. The clearance rate was 77% and suddenly dropped to 33%. That's a cause for concern, don't you think? The APD is not on a par with its own previous record.

Bernie O'Hare said...

either we had a bunch of elliot ness' running around apd or those number were way off.

It's very possible that the loss of well-trained police officers really hurt Allentown.

Anonymous said...

According to Mayor Pawlowski's Op-Ed in The Morning Call the other day, the exodus of 54 well-trained police officers from the APD took place in early 2006.

Dumbfoundingly, nobody seems to care why or what caused the APDs crime-solving success rate to drop ... 40 percentage points ... between 2003 and 2004.