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Crime Scene TapeMany people don’t want to believe this, but the City of Rochester is generally safer than it’s been in decades. That’s true if you look at the number of violent crimes and the rate of violent crimes.

Crime has been declining for many years in Rochester, echoing a trend in cities across the country.

No one knows why this is happening. Criminologists have a wide range of theories, from the legalization of abortion, mass incarceration, reduction of lead paint, aging population, more police on the streets, reduction in crack use, increased use of psychiatric medications and technology keeping people inside. But there’s evidence to support and refute all of these theories.

But politicians don’t hesitate to take credit for the drop in crime. On Thursday, Mayor Lovely Warren said in her State of the City Address:

Our efforts at creating safer neighborhoods can best be seen by looking at the numbers, and the numbers I am referring to are the most recent crime stats, which I am unveiling here, tonight.

And the facts speak for themselves:

We have the lowest Violent Crime levels in 10 years and the 2nd lowest in 25 years.

  • Part 1 Crime (which is how the FBI labels major crimes) is at its lowest level in 25 years.
  • We have fewer than 11,000 Part 1 Crimes for the first time in 25 years.
  • There has not been a single year from 1985 to 2012 when Part 1 numbers dropped below 12,000 and we are actually below 11,000.
  • Robbery and Aggravated Assault are at 25-year lows, with robbery down over 20% from 2013.
  • Property Crime — Burglary and Larceny — are all at their lowest rates in 25 years.

I am proud of these numbers. Aren’t all of you proud of these numbers too?

We deserve to be proud of these numbers. We deserve to take heart that crime and violence have been significantly reduced in our city.

The mayor is 100 percent right that we should be happy crime has declined, even if public perception hasn’t caught up to reality. The mayor is 100 percent right to promote these statistics.

But it’s truly difficult to say if Warren’s administration had anything to do with this drop, which started well before she came into office. Let’s just hope the trend continues.


Links of the Day:


– Cuomo is investigating ways to put schools into receivership. Local control would go away.

– I never understood why Del Smith was considered such a rock star. He had a very thin business resume and no government experience before heading up the city’s economic development efforts. It now appears he wasn’t committed to doing the hard work required to revitalize the city and wants to return to the world of academia. This was one out-of-the-box hire that was a big bust.

– I love every single line of this piece: “When did Americans decide that allowing our kids to be out of sight was a crime?”

– A Xerox researcher thinks car ownership will decline dramatically in 10 years, though some think self-driving cars will put more cars on the road.

National school superintendent searches are unnecessary.

Museums feel the need to ban selfie sticks.


Video of the Day:


15 Responses to Who Gets Credit for Crime Drop?

  1. February 15, 2015 at 7:58 pm RaChaCha responds:

    I wonder if anyone interviewed Klofas about the Rochester crime drop the mayor touted?

    Societally, I’d bet many of the factors you cited may play a role. One I’ve never seen mentioned, but I’m sure must contribute, is the ubiquity of cell phones (including, now, cameras on many) and 911. Personally, after having been shot on one occasion and mugged at knifepoint on another, I finally gave in and got a cellphone, and haven’t been a victim of a serious crime since. As a distance runner and pedestrian, I’m out & about alot, and have been amazed how often I’ve fended off someone just by taking out my cell phone and preparing to dial 911. During Zero Tolerance (remember that?) I had a couple guys approach me from both sides off Monroe Avenue, telling me to give them my stuff. When I screamed and pulled out my cell phone, they took off, and I ended up chasing them to their getaway car parked a block away. I’m sure that knowing almost everyone they encounter will have a cell phone must make potential criminals hesitant about victimizing people.

    But one factor I always wonder about is the stats themselves. Interestingly, crime drops seem to correspond with police departments around the country adopting “by the numbers” information systems. While I’m sure that helps with things like decisions about resource deployment, which may help reduce crime, I wonder if being meaured by metrics doesn’t introduce too much incentive to fudge the numbers. That certainly seemed to be the case when schools and school districts began to be measured on the basis of performance on high-stakes tests. It seems to me that police departments have lots of ways of gaming crime metrics that would be difficult if not nearly impossible to independently ascertain.

    And, frankly, it’s the latter factor that comes to mind when I see an administration with no qualms about playing fast & loose with the truth, and little demonstrated competence, not only crowing about an apparent drop in crime, but releasing that information in a high-profile speech by a mayor who very desperately needs to put some points on the board.

    • February 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Actually, cell phones are huge CAUSE of street robberies.

      • February 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm RaChaCha responds:

        Some thefts of cell phones are violent, and so get included in violent crime stats, but perhaps most are property crimes and targets of opportunity. Many happen when someone is talking or texting in a way as to be oblivious to their surroundings. Although I intuit that cell phone & 911 ubiquity have played a role in the decrease in violent crime, I’ve never seen a study (or anything) of that — but I would be interested in so seeing.

    • February 16, 2015 at 2:16 pm PJ Birkman responds:

      That’s a very popular theory, and you are always right to be skeptical of any official statistics, but there a quite a few reasons why it doesn’t hold up at least on a large scale. I’m going to lay out a couple. The first is that crime has been falling virtually everywhere regardless of system and the intensity of local political leaders. The second is that the decline includes murder and other serious crime that is hard to game the numbers on on a large scale and the decline is still evident when researchers apply various methods to check for manipulation (checking ER stats, looking for shifts in patterns that show felonies getting downgraded, etc.) The third is that to see the decrease in national figures you would need a massive coverup, going uncaught by journalists and unrevealed by individual officers or unions. Even though statistical manipulation on a city, or sector/precinct level has been brought to light by them and there are huge incentives to do so. This is just to big a trend to be explained entirely by a change in record keeping.

  2. February 15, 2015 at 7:59 pm Kristo Miettinen responds:

    To be fair to Warren, she doesn’t really take credit for the drop personally, her comments in state-of-the-city had a general Rochester-should-be-proud flavor.

    Lovely Warren was inaugurated in 2014, but the most recent FBI statistics (link below) are from 2013.


  3. February 16, 2015 at 9:26 am Gary Van Son responds:

    This analysis ignores the fact that many residents do not bother to report crime anymore. In my neighborhood, front porch furniture is a thing of the past, and back yards have become very iffy. If you want to keep it, you put it indoors and don’t bother with the police. Then you get a monitored security system with a loud alarm to deter would be thieves from coming inside your home. Home gun ownership is a plus also. When you have to wait 4 hours plus to make a report to a totally disinterested police department, residents quickly get the message that they are on their own.

    • February 16, 2015 at 11:11 am RaChaCha responds:

      Gary, the RPD hasn’t been the same since a certain officer of our mutual aquaintance retired 😉 The first officer to respond after the mugging I mentioned in my earlier comment!!

  4. February 16, 2015 at 11:30 am theodore kumlander responds:

    So our esteemed Governor makes his next move in handing the public schools over to the private sector. This will happen in the urban school districts but the suburbs are quite aware that charter schools are a hustle. What it really boils down to is the quality of the students. Bad students bad schools, good students, good schools.

    The U of R is in for a big time shock when they take over East High next year and get a big dose of reality. When they face students who spit on the education they are being offered, instead of paying tens of thousands each year for the privilege of going to the U of R.

  5. February 16, 2015 at 4:43 pm Gary Van Son responds:

    There is an inherent fallacy in the notion that a drop in crime (or the crime rate) is always a good thing. Drug crimes are a good example. Drug transactions are only reported as a crime when someone is arrested. There is a corner in my neighborhood ( N. Union and Kenilworth/Weld) that has operated as drug dealer heaven for 30 years. Zero tolerance never made it here. I would be very pleased if the crime rate went up drastically to actually arrest the people involved. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. That is what it would take to retake this area for the rule of law to be imposed. However, the status quo of crime stats would never change if RPD would simply would do nothing as they are now. If they did something, their “stats” would look worse to the uninformed minds looking at them, but the neighborhood would be safer. Be wary of anyone who says less “crime” is always better.

  6. Crime is down? Hooray. Call out the cheerleaders again.
    Down where compared to what?
    Most people don’t follow robberies etc. Heck most times you can barely get a cop to respond to a cell phone or credit card theft.
    Most people follow the murder rate though. And they know the ROC has a lot of them.
    So the murder rate is down compared to the ROC years past … time for a party, right?
    How are we doing compared to Buff or SYR?….oh not good they have less murders than ROC as they do most years… but wait Buff is bigger. (so what?) ITs safer too and has been for years. (no one in the community seems to be willing to explain that one)
    SO too is Toronto , 10 times bigger than the ROC but they have far less total murders …
    How about NYC ya know the big apple …. where most of the TV CRIME shows are based .. how do we compare to them? They have less murders per capita than ROC.. (but Mayor Dibiaso is working on that)
    Most years we do a little better than Flint Mi or Gary In. SO we got that to be proud of .. so hey bring out the cheerleaders and lets have a party. We are third last or for sure closer to the bottom than the top in the safe cities list based on murders, .. but hey we did better than last year. … so yea lets have a party and City DEMs are buying. After all we have so much to be proud of. And OBTW the majority of those murders are never solved and the guilty party not brought to justice.

    • Again Orielly you are talking in generalizations without presenting any facts whatsoever and having those facts wrong. You ask how we are doing compared to Buffalo? Well the FACT is we are doing much, much better than Buffalo. Buffalo had 62 murders in 2014 (highest since 2006) compared to 32 in Rochester (one of the lowest numbers in the last decade). Buffalo solved barely over 50% while Rochester solved over 80% of murders.

      As far as Toronto is concerned, it’s a completely different country with different laws and different values and a different population demographic. It’s the biggest city in Canada, and Canada greatly restricts who can immigrate there. The city of Toronto is about 70% immigrants. Rochester is about 15%. Immigrants tend to on average commit far less violent crimes, thus, when your city is 70% immigrants, you have a significant advantage over domestic American cities which haven’t had years of selective choosing to determine who can or can’t live in your city.

    • February 17, 2015 at 8:37 am PJ Birkman responds:

      “SO too is Toronto , 10 times bigger than the ROC but they have far less total murders …”

      How can that be? You’ve argued so convincingly in the past that all urban problems like crime are the result of liberal policies. And DEMS of course. But Canada is more liberal than we are. I don’t understand how they can have social programs, gun control, etc. and be safer. It’s like everything is upside down. Next thing you know people will be telling me that city bashing commenters are actually more partisan and agenda driven than the “cheerleading” journalists they criticize…

  7. And here is some proof for your Orielly directly from the horse’s mouth in Buffalo, where they question why they can’t solve murders like in Rochester and put those criminals in jail. An unsolved murder is another person on the street who has no problem hurting somebody. When behind bars, that eliminates the possibility of a second violent crime from the same person.

    Oh and I got a fact of my own wrong. The 56% I thought Buffalo was solving was actually before last year. Buffalo solved a measly 26% of murders last year. Compare that to over 80% solved in Rochester. It’s quite clear which city is on the right path in dealing with crime.


    “In Rochester, as in most mid-sized cities, every homicide case is different. But what’s consistent there as opposed to Buffalo is that the vast majority of Rochester murder cases get solved.

    Inside police headquarters, there is a white board. It is a scoreboard of sorts for Rochester’s Major Crime Unit.

    Lieutenant Frank Umbrino says it’s one of the many things that motivates the department.

    “Anything in red is basically an open case where an arrest has not been made yet,” he said. “Everything in black is a closed case in which an arrest has been made.”

    The board is overwhelmingly in black, something the city is certainly proud to see.

    Of Rochester’s 33 homicides last year, 27 were solved, giving the city a clearance rate of 81 percent. That’s well above the national average of 64 percent.

    Compare that with Buffalo, a city whose homicide rate keeps going up while the clearance rate drops steadily. In 2014, the queen city saw 62 homicides and only 23 percent of those cases were solved. That’s down from a 56 percent clearance rate in 2011.”

  8. Interesting stats. Happy to hear crime is dropping. As former city residents in the Corn Hill neighborhood our experience was crime was rampant. In the span of 5 years my family personally experienced the theft of a car, 2 bikes, gas grill, potted plants and even our families pet dog. The rule of thumb was if it is not chained and locked, consider it gone. Rather then just complain, I became active in the neighborhood Pac-tac. I carefully monitored our neighborhood police blotter and one amazing crime I recall was a neighbor actually had all of their landscape plantings dug up and stolen out of the ground. As our children grew the thought of sending them to RCSD became the straw that broke the Camel’s back. We loved and still love the city, a great place for the young or empty nesters but not for a young family. We moved to Brighton for the schools and it’s proximity to Rochester. Finally as I monitor the Brighton Police Blotter I can n conclude that crime in all of the town of Brighton is a small fraction of what crime was in the small Corn Hill Neighborhood. We are happy with our decision to leave Rochester. We would be the first in line to return if the city would solve its crime and the RCSD.

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