I've been doing some casual research tonight on the crime rate in Wilkes-Barre. Prompted by the running campaign platform of now-Mayor Tony George and what I dub the "Facebook/Disqus Party" of Wilkes-Barre (owing to a complete breakdown of definition in what would be either called Democrat or Republican under normal circumstances - it was really the Facebook/Disqus Party of about 50 people that championed him), as well as seemingly complimentary remarks to the same effect made by the Citizen Voice editorial board in this piece(not to mention my own outright sentiments in an earlier post)I was curious how bad crime actually was these days.
If you read the above really fast it doesn't at all sound like the horrible run-on sentence it seems.
Data for 2013 was pretty remarkable; things were bad. 208 violent crimes, 12 murders. That's not the Wilkes-Barre of my childhood by any stretch! But, that was 2013. Had things improved by the time Wilkes-Barre candidates had a choice of campaign messaging in 2015? It's actually tough to say since 2015 data doesn't exist. However 2014 data was posted last September and guess what, violent crime was slashed to just 170 which included just 2 murders. That's a tremendous drop.
Without 2015 data we can't tell if that represents a trend or not, but I will say that Wilkes-Barre crime does suffer from a history of spiking. Here's my recent Disqus post that expands on that if you're curious.
A Shot In the Dark
The UCR data doesn't include a column for "shootings" which is interesting because, at least in the world of Facebook/Disqus Party talking points, that's a major focus of discussion. Facebook Group users "turn in" "reports" of shootings with entries like "Did anyone hear those shots on Main Street!?" which are then followed up with sentiments like "oh boy, another shooting in Wilkes-Barre (smh)". Sometimes nothing happens after that, and other times there is a follow up posting pointing out police checked and nothing was found. And of course sometimes it is an actual shooting. That there may be a wave of unoffficially reported gunfire throughout the city is not actually outside the realm of possibility. In New York City one of the revelations wrought by the implementation of Shotspotter technology was how infrequently shootings are ever dialed in to 9-1-1.
Unfounded Facebook Group reportings or not the theme gets developed in any case which is why in gauging whether or not Wilkes-Barre criminal activity was exaggerated it would help if actual high level data on this one body of events were available. Locally it would not be hard to compile because one could simply count the number of times shootings turned up in police reports -- one just need watch the Wilkes-Barre Police Facebook Page for updates. Perhaps the local newspapers are doing this and perhaps I will moving forward.
It's worth pointing out that the FBI makes dire and explicit warnings against attempting to judge the quality and integrity of a given locality by these figures at its website pages leading to this data. From them:
Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the natureand type of crime to vary from place to place. UCR statistics include only jurisdictional population figures along with reported crime, clearance, or arrest data. Rankings ignore the uniqueness of each locale.
You can read the complete warning as a PDF file by clicking here.
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