A Sad Day, Indeed | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

A Sad Day, Indeed

Remember when Mayor Frank Melton called for placing members of the SWAT team in every Jackson bank in order to deter robberies? In the unlikely event that Melton attempts to implement this "plan," SWAT is going to be terribly busy, as there are only 15 SWAT officers (PDF, 112 KB) on the force. In fact, under the Melton administration, the size of the SWAT team has declined from 21 officers, where it stood in the last month of the Johnson administration, to 15 today. Maybe Melton could assign the 13 officers assigned to narcotics to help.

* * *

Jackson was among the most improved cities in the new edition of the Morgan-Quitno Annual Safest/Most Dangerous City ratings. Jackson, which ranked 42nd most dangerous overall for 2005, was the 7th most improved city, with a score 36.2 points higher than the previous year. If you count the metropolitan area, Jackson ranks 98th in most dangerous metropolitan areas. The survey included 371 cities.

The rankings cover 2005 and do not reflect growth in crime under the administration of Mayor Frank Melton, though they do include the first few months of his tenure.

In 2004, Jackson fell out of the top-25 most dangerous cities for the first time since Morgan Quitno began issuing the reports in 1996. That year, Jackson moved from the 14th most dangerous to the 28th. The most recent report shows similar improvement, with another 14-spot improvement to 42nd.

Local politicians and editorial boards have long used Morgan-Quitno numbers to amp up fear about crime. Politicians from Haley Barbour to D.A. candidate Wilson Carroll to Frank Melton have grabbed the "dangerous" rankings when they're convenient, often not bothering to tell listeners that the rankings are always more than a year old by the time they are released. Nor have they discussed the fact that Jackson has steadily improved in the rankings in recent years—until the Melton administration took charge.

The Clarion-Ledger made incessant reference to Morgan-Quitno rankings in years past when they showed Jackson among the 25 most dangerous cities, but did not report at all on Jackson's improved ranking in 2004 (the last full year of the former mayor's term.)

This week, Goliath ran an editorial entitled "Crime: A Sad Day 42nd Is Considered ‘Good.'" (Even within the snappy realm of headlines, that's ungrammatical.) Goliath asserts that Jackson is 42nd in violent crime, which is simply incorrect because property crimes, including car break-ins, are included in the rankings. Nowhere does Goliath mention that Jackson was the 7th most improved. The piece does mention that Jackson dropped out of the top 15 "in recent years," but it slides right over last year's report, which Goliath had ignored.

Last year's report showed vast improvement during the same period that Goliath was hammering the Johnson administration for failing to combat crime. The editorial asserts one more time that numbers were fudged during the Johnson administration, pointing to the fact that crime stats were not reported in accordance with uniform crime reporting standards before 2001. Of course, that was before the most dramatic decrease in crime, but that doesn't stop Goliath: "(The numbers) were supposedly brought into compliance then, but raised questions when the police stats showed continued declines, including a 21 percent drop in the city's overall crime rate in 2004." That is another ungrammatical sentence, and the passive fragment "raised questions" obscures the fact that it was Goliath, among others, that "raised questions," on the basis of no evidence. They simply could not believe that crime was going down under Johnson. Failing to meet uniform standards could not account for a 21-point drop, nor is there any way to fudge the murder rate, which fell dramatically during the Johnson administration before shooting back up under Melton.

Finally, Goliath continues to play the "perception" game, attempting to turn Melton's words back against him: "The question to Jacksonians is: ‘Do you feel safe?'" Crime statistics are real, whether Goliath will accept it or not. If Jacksonians feel unsafe today, it's probably because violent crime this year has surged 48.7 percent over last year, under the administration of the man Goliath endorsed for mayor—by virtue of his empty promises to fight crime.

* * *

It seems unlikely that Jackson will be among the most improved cities in next year's Morgan-Quitno report. The latest ComStat figures (PDF, 1.4 MB) show that Jackson's crime rate has continued to surge over last year's figures, and with the end of the year fast approaching, there is little time left for improvement.

In response, the Jackson Police Department has stripped ComStat of the delta-percentage figures that once made year-to-year comparisons easy, which is a fitting symbol for how the Melton administration operates. Numbers bad? Refuse to release them until a court demands it. Numbers still bad? Make them hard to understand.

Overall, crime is up 15.2 percent for the year. Property crime is up 10.7 percent. Auto burglary is up 2.5 percent. Auto theft is up 4.1 percent. Business burglary is down 6.9 percent. Grand larceny is up 31.8 percent. House burglary is up 30.5 percent.

Violent crime, on the other hand, is up a staggering 48.7 percent. Aggravated assault is up 25.9 percent. Armed robbery is up 82.9 percent. Carjacking is up 62.6 percent. Homicide is up by 32 percent. Rape, which earlier in the year was the only category of violent crime to decrease, is now up 7.5 percent.

Precinct 2 saw a modest rise in overall crime, though violent crime there rose 49.7 percent. Precincts 1, 3 and 4 all saw similar growth in crime, with precinct 4 registering the largest increase, at 32.7 percent. Precinct 4 saw a 114.9 percent rise in violent crime.

A typo in the print version has been corrected here.

Previous Comments

ID
172645
Comment

Public Eye is back with a vengeance ;). Of particular interest are the latest ComStat figures--they are not pretty. JPD has stripped off the delta-percentages that used to make year-to-year comparisons easy, so I just did the math myself. Violent crime, on the other hand, is up a staggering 48.7 percent. Aggravated assault is up 25.9 percent. Armed robbery is up 82.9 percent. Carjacking is up 62.6 percent. Homicide is up by 32 percent. Rape, which earlier in the year was the only category of violent crime to decrease, is now up 7.5 percent.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2006-11-01T11:57:14-06:00
ID
172646
Comment

These statistics are awful. When comparing this year to last year, how could anyone think it was previously mis-reported? Most of these figures are a comparison of current administration to current administration. Wonder why Safe City is stuck on the 2001 to 2004 figures when these are available? If their mission is to inform the public of how drastic crime is, then why be almost two years out of sync? Even an outside agency like Morgan-Quitno is using our 2005 stats. The SWAT Team is an all-volunteer group, I believe. It requires extra time to practice and to be on call. So, the question I have is: Why are there less volunteers for this elite group?

Author
ChrisCavanaugh
Date
2006-11-02T05:34:45-06:00
ID
172647
Comment

You're right, Chris. Only an idiot, or a blind fool, would try to say that these dramatic jumps in crime are due to "under-reporting" by the last administration. Smart folks know that (ahem, Ledger). Remember, SafeCity formed to help get the last mayor out of office. They have always focused on numbers to make the last mayor look bad and this one look better. Of course, there are some things even those folks can't deny. Both SafeCity and The Clarion-Ledger are twisting themselves into pretzels because they know how foolish they all look now.

Author
ladd
Date
2006-11-02T11:01:56-06:00
ID
172648
Comment

Agreed. Could "manipulation of the numbers" account for an increase in armed robbery from 358 incidents last year at this time compared with 655 incidents this year? The SWAT Team issue exemplifies at least one dimension of the problems with the Melton administration's approach to fighting crime, namely that the administration demands performance from the police while presiding over a decline in JPD's capabilities. How can we expect the police to meet this increase in crime when the number of officers across the board has declined, special units like SWAT and narcotics have lost officers, and morale in general is at an all-time low--as multiple sources inside the department have told us?

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2006-11-02T13:52:55-06:00
ID
172649
Comment

This is the kind of information that shouldn't be cast aside by the Meltonites if they truly want what is best for Jackson. There is absolutely no way that the past police chief could fudge the numbers that dramatically in that short a time. Melton opened this City up to more crime by the very nature of his associations with criminal youths and his disregard for basic law - even before Ridgeway/Upper Level. You guys couldn't have spelled this out any better! And the people outside Jackson (and the NJam set) eat Melton's crap up because they saw him frisk a black youth on TV. Now that is dumb!

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-11-03T10:39:30-06:00

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