Rate of Assaults Downtown Doubles

While everybody was wondering whether crime has actually risen downtown recently, The Hook found out. Simple assaults are occurring at twice the 2004 rate, which is a pretty startling increase. In fact, it’s the single most common crime downtown, occurring 134% more often than shoplifting. To re-mount my two-year-old hobby horse, if the police would simply make raw crime report data available online (incident, date, time, and block address), news outlets and citizens activists could mine this data for trends on our own.

29 thoughts on “Rate of Assaults Downtown Doubles”

  1. “news outlets and citizens activists could mine this data for trends on our own”

    Better phrased as:

    “news outlets and citizens activists could mine this data and distort it on our own”

  2. Van –

    Not at all. At least if the data were open and accessible to all, then members of the public would be able to see for themselves. I look at this from a real estate perspective – one of the top three questions asked by my buyers is, “is this area safe?” If I could direct them to a mashup similar to what Richmond and Chicago are doing, everybody would benefit. Then the media’s (and blogs’) ability to spin or “distort” the data would be greatly minimized.

  3. It still ceases to amaze me that some people wake up in the morning and their main goal is to see who they can attack. Man, what a way to live ones life….JC

  4. Van,

    I guess you’re right. Taxpayers are not entitled to data gathered by our government with our tax money because we just wouldn’t understand it. It’s so much better to have no idea what is happening in our own city rather than be burdened with the danger of individually misrepresenting the meaning of the data.

    Ignorance is freedom. War is peace. Up is down.

    On a separate note, to anyone who is considering taking their personal security into their own hands in response to the dramatic increase in downtown assaults, I suggest taking a very inexpensive class at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club to learn how to handle a weapon safely and meet one of the requirements for obtaining a Concealed Weapon Permit. Just buying a gun and sticking it in your pocket without having any clue what you are doing is a good way to get yourself killed or arrested.


  5. The data requested was once available on the City’s old, locally-hosted website. The police department is in the process of learning to use the new software and interface to return to posting this information on the new website.
    It would be interesting to know how much of this crime is committed on Friday or Saturday nights. It sounds to me, statistically speaking, that a person is just as safe on the Mall as he is at Foxfield in the spring. I hope Mr. Duncan is providing audio recordings of the downtown environs to his prospective buyers. I imagine a lot of potential buyers are unaware that there is no noise ordinance effect for that area.

  6. I know at least one person who thought they’d “fight back” by punching the guy who tried to take their wallet. It turns out there was another guy hidden begind him with a crowbar who then beat him over the head and knocked out his teeth. While I’ve heard some stats that suggest that fighting back can be succesful, just keep in mind that it also has its share of risks too…

  7. Oh please, my comment was merely a play upon the recent “fussing with facts” ,of the serail rapist case ,by local news outlets and associated commentary on this page.

    All sarcasm noted and disregarded.

  8. It’s especially surprising that these numbers aren’t available if you consider Chief Longo’s years of experience in the Baltimore police department, where if I’m not mistaken they used CompStat, a statistically based approach that involves weekly updates based on precinct. I remember that when he was interviewing for the Chief position in Cville, much was made of his experience in that system.

    As dramatized in the last couple of seasons of The Wire, for example, the system is meant to be all about accountability for the officers in charge of the different zones. If one area is having problems, everybody knows it, and whoever in the department is responsible for that area has to explain what is being done to fix the situation.

    Real life is not a TV show, of course, but I know that in New York City, where I live (and which has used a similar system), you can go to the police department’s web site, pick out any precinct in the city, and download a pdf page with crime stats for the year to date, compared with stats for a comparable period in previous years. Yes, it’s useful for journalists and other people who want to critique the department, but just as importantly, it helps everyone concerned identify where the problems are, quantify how serious they are, and act accordingly.

  9. After I was raped fifteen years and three thousand miles ago, I took a refresher course in self-defense with a handgun. Then I talked my options over with my gunsmith father. As he reminded me, to walk around carrying a handgun all of the time means you have to be prepared to kill — all of the time. Hesitate just a little or assess the situation inaccurately and you’ve either under-reacted or over-reacted: which can increase the danger to yourself. I decided I really had no desire to walk around this planet ready to kill all the time. I have a stun-gun and pepper spray which I’m increasingly lax about carrying, but its enough and its appropriate and I haven’t had to sully myself or burden my community with one more person ready to do irreparable harm to another.

  10. Just buying a gun and sticking it in your pocket without having any clue what you are doing is a good way to get yourself killed or arrested.

    Hesitate just a little or assess the situation inaccurately and you’ve either under-reacted or over-reacted


    While I respect your advice on learning to handle a gun properly if you choose to own one (or many), the advice is shortsighted. Elizabeth finishes the point perfectly. It’s fine to know how to handle the tool, but the wisdom lies in knowing what to do with the confrontation, and no one knows what they’re going to do in that situation until they’re in it (and most likely not then either). Let’s say it happens to you and you pull your piece. Then four of them pull their pieces, only they didn’t take the course you’re recommending and they’re not as good a shot as you. Innocent people possibly end up dead. — Knowing how to handle a gun is fine, but being mentally prepared to kill is a whole different thing.

  11. Who says ya gotta kill ’em? Maybe you could just incapacitate ’em, or fire a couple of warning shots.

  12. Yes, but most of these kids come from broken families, usally single parents, so it doesn’t matter if there is a curfew, beacuse no one cares that much about them..JC

  13. That’s both depressing and inaccurate, JC. Living with one parent is not a direct cause of delinquency. To say that kids who are delinquent do not have anyone to care about them is also a sweeping generalization.

    The crime statistic given includes all simple assaults in 2007, not just the ones by kids in July and August.

  14. Many single parents make the sacrifices necessary to supervise and nurture their children. However, it is difficult to imagine that a group of boys out all hours of the night assaulting strangers have caring/functional parents.

  15. Thanks Gail! I agree. Sylvia, I beg to differ. Do you really think that these kids come from a 2 parent family situation where the parents been maried for more then 10 years and are crazy about each other? I still say that kids growing up in single parent households are by majority more dysfuctional then those that come from a 2 parent situation where the parents are married and instill values upon them…JC

  16. I didn’t comment about what happens when children have married parents, so I will ignore your strawman.

    My point was that there is no direct connection between single parenting and child delinquency. There is a direct connection between lack of supervision and teen delinquency. (Abuse and drug use are others.) There could be lots of reasons why parents (married and single) do not supervise their kids, but that is another topic. We do agree. My disagreement is in your assertion that single parenting in general is the problem.

  17. JC, you really oughta come up with some research to support your conviction that kids from single-parent homes are “by majority” more “dysfunctional” (whatever those terms mean) than kids from two-parent homes. It might feel like common sense to you, but you’d be surprised how often our common-sense assumptions are wrong.

  18. Good for you, Sylvia. Nothing makes me angrier than seeing people put down single parents, or people who grew up in single-parent homes,
    I take this personally because I grew up in a single-parent home, with a mother not married to my father. Whats more, so did my mother!
    I have a college degree amd have never been involved in the criminal justice system, except for jury duty.
    Whats more, there are plenty from two-parent families who go to the bad.
    If our society would stop putting down single parents( and gay/lesbian parents) we would be much better off. But day after day, we get ,in the words of a dear deceased feminist friend of mine, subjected to “patriarchal horseshit” about how indispensable fathers are.
    My mother refused to marry my father because he was a violent,drunken individual.This at a time(1947) when “shotgun marriages” were a norm in rural Va.
    I consider myself very fortunate that I never had this person as a
    “role model.”
    I apoligize for venting this in a post related to another issue-but this has been building up.

  19. I ran a quick search using a couple of the UVa library’s databases. (Search terms “‘single parent’ and ‘crime'”.) I found a pair of studies on PsychINFO, one from 2003 and one from 2004. The first, from Nigel Barber at Birmingham Southern College has the following abstract:

    This article investigates the role of single parenthood ratios in predicting violent-crime rates (murders, rapes, assaults) of 39 countries and pitted the predictions of parental investment theory (calling for delayed effects) against those of mating aggression (calling for immediate effects). Regression analyses that controlled for masculinity of the population (sex ratio of 15- to 64-year-olds) and national wealth (log gross national product, GNP, per capita) found that current single parenthood ratios were strongly and consistently predictive of violent crimes, whereas single parenthood ratios 18 years ago were not. The results indicate that violent crime is best interpreted as a side effect of mating competition rather than as a function of reduced parental investment.

    And the second, from Amy Anderson of Pennsylvania State University:

    Examined the effects of single-parent family environment on delinquency from both an individual and structural perspective. 4,671 students (aged 13-15 yrs) completed surveys concerning status, property, and person delinquency. Results show that those Ss living in a single-parent family demonstrated higher delinquency of all types. Ss attending school where a high proportion of students lived with a single parent showed higher person delinquency, but lower incidence of property offenses. Male Ss reported greater incidents of status offenses, property crime, and person crime. Minority Ss were more at risk for status and person offenses but not for property offending.

    I haven’t read the articles, just those abstracts, nor have I attempted to hunt down any papers that cite these studies, whether to support the studies or to rebut them. That said, J.C., it appears you’re right, but I’m inclined to agree with Cecil: an assertion like that demands some data to back it up.

  20. Thanks, Waldo. It looks like that single parenting is a predictor. However, we cannot take a child who has gotten in trouble and say “it’s because he’s from a single parent family.” Correlation, absolutely. Causation, not so much.

  21. I’d guess that single parenthood is a predictor, too, but my issue is that single parenthood is just one among a whole cluster of factors that taken together seem to correlate with greater dysfunction. I think people want to isolate a particular factor (whatever their own hobbyhorse is) and make that the causative factor, when in fact we can’t isolate any of them–it’s the context, rather than a cause.

    I went back to JC’s first post on single parenting in this thread, to see how we even got started on this issue:

    “Yes, but most of these kids come from broken families, usally single parents, so it doesn’t matter if there is a curfew, beacuse no one cares that much about them.”

    Okay, so, basically, single parents don’t care that much about their children.

    Wow, is all I can muster right now.

  22. I wish I could remember where I saw this study but, anyhow, I recently saw a study which said that boys from single parent families who are in a peer group with boys where a significant number of boys live with their fathers are much less at risk for criminal activity than boys where most of the peer group have no connection with their fathers. I think this makes sense. Individual children survive without a father (or mother) but nurturing parents are essential for a community.

  23. My husband grew up without his father around, but his mom lived near her sisters’ families and so his uncles were a constant, positive presence in his life. He stayed out of trouble and grew up pretty grounded. I would not want my son to grow up without a constant, positive male presence in his life.

    I don’t doubt that having more committed adults in a child’s life is better than having relatively few committed adults, but I’m just boggled by blanket, baseless statements like single parents don’t care much about their kids.

  24. John,

    Anyone legally carrying a handgun (hopefully) knows that using that weapon is a last resort that one only looks to when there is no other way to prevent life-threatening violence from being done to you or your neighbor.

    In a situation where a whole gang of people is attacking you (which is exactly what the current danger is downtown), your life is in doubt right there. The motive of these gangs is simply violence. They aren’t looking for your wallet. There’s nothing you can do to placate them except to have violence done to you and risk death. Given the stakes, I don’t agree with the logic you are suggesting.

    There are 2 choices. If you do nothing and fail to use your firearm then an innocent person (you and whoever is with you) will definitely be subjected to physical violence that could result in death. If you do use your firearm then there is a strong possibility that the innocent person or persons will escape from the situation unharmed. The possibility of some other random innocent person being harmed by a stray shot is there but is very small compared to the other probabilities that we are dealing with.

    Ethically, this is a no-brainer. You choose the option that has the best chance of avoiding harm coming to the innocent. Which is to use the firearm.

    The real question is whether the person making the decision is able to quickly assess the severity of a threat under stress. Some people are able to do this and a few are not.

    To EZ Does It:

    Any time that you introduce a weapon into a confrontation you have to assume that you will need to kill someone. If the threat does not rise to that level then don’t even draw it. And certainly if you fire a gun at someone your assumption has to be that you will kill them (ask any judge or jury). In a high-stress situation like that you will be very unlikely to be able to place a shot such that the attacker is only injured rather than killed. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that shooting to wound the attacker is some sort of compromise. There are very good reasons why police officers are trained only to shoot to kill. If the bad guy is only incapacitated and then he survives then that’s great news but it it’s only chance rather than a decision that anyone made.

  25. Jack, RE:

    You choose the option that has the best chance of avoiding harm coming to the innocent. Which is to use the firearm.”

    Debatable Jack. Brass tacks, it’s a roll of the dice as to what happens with or without a gun. I respect your argument and your discerning position with regard to firearm responsibility though.

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