Sunday, September 27, 2009

More on crime techniques

Stephanie Ramage has an interesting post up that is a different take on the AJC's crime opus
We know that when a reporter spends more than 2,000 words on the number of reported crimes, police department policies and the media’s role in perception, with only about 600 devoted to any actual crime—the John Henderson slaying and a list of homicide highlights that left out the murder of Harish Roy—and that no survivors of those crimes are interviewed for the story, the story is not about crime: It’s about numbers, policies, and low-rating other media.
The story is a little bit too inside-baseball for me, media wise.  Still, she has some solid points about how the AJC compares Atlanta to other cities.  I also think there is a density issue to the "asset turnover" of police officers.  Denser cities, like Boston, can get more use per officer because they spend less time driving to and fro and more time policing.  That is just an idea of mine, though, with no proof.

I'm personally more interested in learning about the criminologist she interviews, David Weisburd.  He's apparently done some work on effective policing techniques, and a quick googling brings up this book on crime mapping, as well as a number of other books. She gave him a call:
It was Weisburd who studied policing in Minneapolis in the mid-1990s and found that by concentrating more police in troubled micro-areas or “hot spots,” crime could be reduced overall by as much as 13 percent. Since then, he says, the method has only grown in currency and support. The entwined ideas that adding police doesn’t have much impact on crime and that for a city like Atlanta, with a poverty problem, “a high crime rate is inevitable”—as the AJC’s Judd claims “criminologists say”—are outdated.

 “That used to be a consensus among criminologists,” says Weisburd. “But at least since 1990, there has been a growing body of literature about how police can affect crime rates.”
He doesn’t discount the fact that various social factors affect crime, but, he says, “there are poor areas with little crime.”
I am curious about how the APD utilizes the crime-mapping data they have.  I assume, and hope, that they use the data for more than a web page display and public information.  However, I don't hear much about how they are using it to target hot spots and to inform officer distribution.  I also think it is slightly ridiculous that someone like me (with el hermano and Cassie) has to be the one who produces the GIS maps and data reports on micro-levels.  It would be unbelievably simple for the APD to generate data reports and maps on a regular basis.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

College Football Hall of Fame to ATL. Yawn.

So the College Football Hall of Fame is moving to Atlanta, and we beat out Dallas and T. Boone Pickens to secure the move.  As a Michigan grad, I engage in an extremely mild amount of schadenfreude at seeing South Bend, Indiana lose the Hall of Fame.  As an Atlanta resident, I am a bit disappointed as it appears the boosters of the move are going to be taking a piece of property on the east side of Centennial Olympic Park at Harris Street:

View Terminal Station Development Tracker in a larger map
I am generally of the opinion that Atlanta needs more residents and sustainable development, not more tourist attractions.  I also would love to see a higher density development than a likely two story building on that particular piece of dirt. 

I'm not opposed to the HOF relocating.  I'm enough of a home town booster to rejoice at beating Dallas for something, especially football related.  So far, the Hall of Fame has given me Notre Dame snubbing and Texas snubbing.  If we could work in some Alabama snubbing, it'd be the holy trinity of self-important football schadenfreude.  But the College Football Hall of Fame is a decidedly B-grade tourist attraction, certainly not on par with the Aquarium or the CCHR.  It doesn't match up to the World of Coke, either, which frankly is a B-grade attraction, too.  The HOF might even be C-grade.

So I'm disappointed that this actually happened, but I guess realistically it is good to have something being built Downtown.  It might be a positive addition to the city, but I still think in the long run that the opportunity costs for that parcel are too high. 

Reader email: New BeltLine CEO

I got an email from a reader, and was about to write him back when I figured my response might be worth posting:
They named a new Beltline CEO.  What do you think? If he was teh VP of Atlantic Station, the only thing I can say is I am concerned for the Beltline.  I know Atlantic Station is a major improvement from what it was, but the last word I would use for Atlantic Station is "impressive."

It all comes down to quality and design.  If the CEO doesn't have it, then the project won't have it, simple as that.
I have been ambivalent about Atlantic Station in this space.  At one point I said, "Atlantic Station is in many ways a huge disappointment it also did a lot of things right."  That is still about how I feel, although I've warmed up to the place the more I go there.  I really only end up there once a month or so for a movie, and it is always fairly busy.  It feels more urban as they fill in 17th Street with more high rises, but I also haven't been near some of the ugly multifamily buildings in a while.

I also don't know much about Brian Leary as an individual.  However, from an outsider's perspective, my first instinct is that BeltLine made a pretty good hire.  First, I think the private enterprise experience is important, and Atlantic Station is one of the few mega projects that has actually delivered anything to market.  Allen Plaza is the only other one I can think of, and the BeltLine has had mixed results working with the Barry folks on the Wayne Mason parcel.  Projects of this magnitude are very, very difficult to pull off, and Brian Leary has been a key part of one that can generally be called a success.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Required reading on APD

The AJC had a long piece in the Sunday paper about the Atlanta Police Department - you should read the whole thing. There are a few things I wanted to highlight, though.

I've been saying that simply adding more officers isn't much of a solution. The AJC thankfully points out that:
Despite recent cuts, Atlanta has more officers for every 1,000 residents than all but one of seven benchmark cities identified by a consultant to the mayor.

The only city in that group with more officers than Atlanta — St. Louis — also is the only one with a higher crime rate.
While I think there is a matter of density to consider, I hope we can agree that "more officers" doesn't automatically translate into lower crime rates.

The second thing is the issue of "perception".

Friday, September 18, 2009

Atlanta crime data: Larceny from Auto

This is the second in a series of posts looking at APD crime data. Previously I looked at residential burglaries. For an overview, including methodology, see Atlanta crime data: project overview.

Looking at the the Larceny from Auto (car break-ins) data is rather different than the home burglary story. With home burglaries, we saw rather localized results, where it was possible to identify areas of the city that saw disproportionate increases. With car break-ins, we basically have several major problem areas in the city for all years of our data set.

For the city as a whole, car break-ins are up. Things started off well, as car break-ins actually dropped in 2005, but picked up again in 2006. 2008 was a particularly bad year.

Overall, I can't see significant trends in the data other than the fact that 2008 was a very bad year for car break-ins. Without the 2008 series, many of the NPUs have average annual increases in the single digits, and a few NPUs actually have fewer car break-ins. So for, the first half of 2009 is showing a decrease in major problems areas, as well.

Don't park your car in Buckhead, Midtown, or Downtown

Breaking down car break-ins by NPU very quickly shows that the it is dangerous to park your car in densest areas of the city with the greatest amount of on-street parking and open-air parking lots. Combined, NPUs B, E, and M account for 54.83% of all break-ins over the period studied.

What you can also see here is that the trends aren't as strong for car break-ins as they were for home burglaries. For a lot of NPUs, the numbers of incidents are relatively level. The biggest increases are seen in 2006 and 2008, but in different areas. All of the increase in car break-ins in Buckhead (NPU B) occurred in 2008, while 2006 was a bad year for Midtown (NPU E). Midtown, incidentally, actually had a net decrease in activity because the increases in 2006 were offset by large decreases in 2005 and 2007.

Other areas with significant car break-in issues include NPU F (including Virginia-Highland), NPU N (including Inman Park, LIttle Five, and Cabbagetown), NPU W (including East Atlanta), as well as NPUs T and V (Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Capitol View). For the most part, these problem areas correlate to areas with lots of nighttime activity. For crying out loud, don't leave stuff in your car when you go out at night!

East side again a problem area

The concentration of car break-in activity also means is that relatively modest increases in activity in these NPUs gets magnified. When car break-ins increase by 30% in Downtown over five years, it accounts for 24% of the increase in all break-ins. By contrast, care break-ins in NPU P increased by 156% yet that only contributed to 4.6% of the overall increase in activity.

Compare this graph, showing just the additional incidents by each NPU, with the second graph, showing the overall percentage change in car break-ins for each NPU.

Several things jump out to me. First, while downtown accounts for a lot of the increase in burglaries, Midtown and Buckhead are less culpable. NPUs N and O show both significant percentage and absolute increase in activity. Almost all of the increases for N and O occur in 2008.


So far, most of the major problem areas are all showing decreases in car break-ins for the first six months of the year compared with the first six months of 2008. Buckhead, Midtown, Downtown, East Atlanta, and Little Five NPUs are all down, while Virginia Highland is up. NPU O, which includes Edgewood and Kirkwood, has really taken off, though. Car break-ins have almost doubled there - no surprise given the recent reports there.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Apologies for the lack of content

It has been too long since I wrote. I have been very busy with school, but I am beginning to get a handle on the semester. I'm spending hours every day playing with spreadsheets, which is fantastic.

At one point a classmate complained about the hours he was putting in for our Financial Analysis class.

I responded, "Yeah, it is fun, but it takes a long time."

"You think this is fun?!"

I guess I'm in the right program.

Anyway, I should have a post up on car break-in data tomorrow. I have had all the analysis done for two weeks, I just hadn't had the time to write anything up. I got about 90% of the work done tonight while watching the Tech-Miami game, so you can look forward to that.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Transportation forum recap and mayoral news

Joeventures gives a pretty good write up of the most recent mayoral forum. Lisa Borders comes off the best. Joe has some okay things to say about Kasim Reed, but thinks he lacks the ability to be an effective CEO. That is one way to express a concern I share, too.

Also, Kyle Keyser of ATAC enters the race. I guess he's putting his name out there for public debate.... but I don't want to look at him the same way I look at the other candidates who might actually be in charge of the city. I mean... I have doubts he can raise enough money to qualify. I'm pretty sure that all the major candidates are aware that crime is an issue this election, and Kyle deserves some credit for that. However, I'm not sure what his candidacy will accomplish beyond that fact.

h/t: Grift Drift

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

History of I-485

Via Thomas Wheatley, there is a comprehensive history of the original I-485 fight on the Inman Park Neighborhood Association web site. The PDF was originally put out by the Morningside-Lenox Park Neighborhood Association in 2003.

Wheatley's article also include a letter from the Inman Park Neighborhood Association president to Oxendine that is worth reading. The end of the letter is, for me, the bottom line.
These Atlanta neighborhoods, including Inman Park, most soundly defeated this highway proposal decades ago, at a time when they had little organization and little resources. Today, we are highly organized and closely networked. We have neighbors and friends in many high places, and we have a lot of money, set aside specifically to protect ourselves against these kinds of proposals.
This basically sums it up - I'd like to see Oxendine try. Really. The entire east side of the city would go into primal-scream mode. The original I-485 fight, along with the subsequent Stone Mountain Freeway fight, were the catalyst for urban renewal in Atlanta. Beyond just not wanting a freeway through our neighborhoods, the fights have become even more important as a sort of local mythology.

Consider the ferocity with which folks fought against Wayne Mason, and that was for a relatively minor issue. I have no doubt that the intown neighborhoods would use every lever at their disposal, including:
  • a life time of support for John Lewis
  • a state House and Senate delegation with years of service and experience (and chits)
  • a sizable amount of disposable income useful for political donations (beyond what the neighborhood organizations have at their disposal for legal fights, etc.)
  • the made-for-the-media story line of "neighborhood fights the big bad road builders"
  • connections and often executive-level employment at Atlanta's major companies
I have little confidence that Oxendine could get any sort of bill through the legislature that would allow this to happen - if the entire Atlanta delegation didn't completely flip out I'd be surprised (and it would be legislative malpractice if they didn't).

I highly doubt that Oxendine gave this idea more than a minimal amount of thought. Not that he really gives a crap about pissing off intown neighborhoods. It is just that this is just an idea for him to put out there to say, "hey, I have transportation ideas." If he got elected, he'd never want to spend political capital on this fight. I doubt he has considered what it'd take to get such a road built. This will never happen. That doesn't make it less insulting or threatening.

That is perhaps the best way to view this proposal, as a threat to a way of life in the most drastic way possible. It isn't just threatening the symbols of that way of life, it is threatening to dig up and pave over the actual real estate that makes up a community. Auburn Avenue has never recovered from the connector getting put right though it. Can you expect Atlanta, from Morningside down to Reynoldstown and East Atlanta, to not freak out? Oxendine may as well just spit in my face.