Monday, October 30, 2006

Fat and Dangerous

Apparently, we are a fat and dangerous city. At least that's what studies and news outlets would like us to believe over the past few years. I'm waiting for someone to suggest that our city is so dangerous because we are so fat we can't run away from crime. Anyone who works in statistics knows that you can find data to support just about anything, but if you take a look at the recent study published by Morgan Quitno (of Kansas), you'll see conflicting information.

The survey (and accompanying article) report that STL is the most dangerous city amongst those with a population of 75,000 or more. What it does not say is that these results are within cities that have a population of less than 500,000 people, or that when studied, they only looked at the city crime stats, not the metro area (that whole county thing causing confusion--again). On rankings by population, it puts STL at #3 most dangerous. What we are also not told is that they look at the crimes then create their statistics based on our crime rates versus a national average. It does not clarify if that national average which they then use for their math is based on cities with similar populations, or American cities in general. So frankly, I'm not sure where that leaves us, except slightly confused.

I received an email from KDHX stating that STL is actually ranked 94 in the "Most Dangerous" category when compared to other cities. Again, math making a difference. So what's the hype? And how much of this do we believe?

Our city has crime, this we know. I beg you to find a place that does not have crime in America and then perhaps we can learn from that locale. Recent events have shown us that even insular communities have crime, violence and terribel tragedies (shootings in Bailey, CO and the Amish slayings come to mind). So, now we'll talk of danger and fear, and we'll get caught up in arguments of math and statistics. I wonder if we will have the discussions that we need to have, as a city, and as a country?
To be plain, that conversation exists mainly around: how do we change this?

There will be arguments and blame placed-- on the city, on the police, perhaps on the legal system and the prison system as well. We will look to issues of income and race, and of division. And then we will further divide ourselves doing complicated math. We will wonder who is not doing their job properly? We will wonder who is responsible. And the same people who are balking will take the issue no further.

Yep, there's crime. Welcome to the world, folks. I've been a victim myself, as have most people I know, and it ain't always pretty. Does that mean our city is going to hell, spinning out of control under the grip of criminals and violence? Does it mean we should move about differently under some new knowledge of fear? God, I hope not. Maybe if we spent as much time trying to find solutions as we do talking about the problem, things would start to change. Maybe if we put our money into programs that would give the city (and its inhabitants) options, things would start to change. Maybe if we had real discussions about race, about education, and about community-based projects, we would get somewhere.

So we're fat and we have crime. Move on. And then do something about it. I, for one, am totally open to comments.

No comments: