The right way to assess crime data

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Roxboro Chief of Police David Hess has the proper perspective when it comes to assessing recently-released crime rates for the city.

Those numbers show a slight uptick in the crime rate in Roxboro.

But Hess points out, correctly, that it’s more important to look at the longer trend. Of course, it helps that in looking at the longer trend the crime rates have dropped fairly steadily. But even if that weren’t the case, Hess would be right to say that the longer trend is more important than the year-to-year comparisons.

The same thing applies to public school test scores, by the way, but that’s an argument for another time.

In Roxboro, the overall crime rates increased by a modest 2.5 percent over 2018, led by a 3.6 increase in property crimes and a 1.1 percent decrease in violent crimes. Of course, if we must see a crime rate increase, we’re glad it’s crime against property. That means crime against people – murder, rape, aggravated assaults – are retreating. That’s good because violent crime can have long-lasting and potentially more serious impacts on the victims.

And, it’s important to note that property crimes are more preventable. Several times during the year, police reported spikes in the number of vehicle break-ins around the city. To be honest they weren’t so much break-ins as they were “open the doors and take what you want” crimes.

The simple act of locking a vehicle will deter lots of would be thieves because, after all, after breaking in to a locked vehicle would be too much like work and thieves aren’t usually proponents of hard work.

So what do we take from the newly-released data? As Hess noted, the police department’s public outreach is having an impact. For many, the police are no longer the big, bad boogey man out chasing people down with a ticket notebook in one hand and a big gun in the other.

Instead, they are people with names, with lives outside work (which is to say they are regular people). And most people can relate to – and trust people who are like them.

Police will always have to invest themselves into the community they serve. That shouldn’t change even if, over the long haul, crime rates continue to fall. And residents will have to heed the common-sense advice of police when they tell us to keep our stuff locked up.

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