Downtown crime: Reading the statistical tea leaves

A series of seemingly random attacks in and around the Downtown Mall this summer have not only sparked fear and outrage in the hearts of Mall visitors, they've also sparked a number of debates: whether the threat has been exaggerated by the media, how the threat, if it exists, should be addressed, if the threats are really new at all, who the attackers are and why they are doing it, how race might play into the situation, and even if cameras should be installed on the Downtown Mall.

To help put the issues in perspective, the Hook asked the Charlottesville police department for crime data on the Mall from the beginning of 2004 to July 13, 2007. In addition to a compilation of total crime listed by category, Lt. David Shifflett Jr. of the Crime Analysis Unit also provided detailed information on violent crime pertaining to victim/offender relationship, weapon used, and injury to provide a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding each reported incident. The map photo (left) shows the area that was studied in and around the Mall.

While aggravated assaults (assaults involving a weapon) have remained steady, between 7 and 9 a year in the period studied, simple assaults (assaults where no weapon was used) have risen from 29 in 2004 to 46 in 2007, and the year isn't over yet. However, in each year nearly half or more of the offenders and victims in these simple assaults knew each other. Also, the victim knew the offender in 6 of the 7 forcible rapes reported.

So what's the most common crime in and around the Mall? In the period studied, there were 49 aggravated assaults, 58 incidents of shoplifting, 82 thefts from a vehicle, 107 thefts from buildings, and 136 simple assaults.
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3 comments

Crime in this city is negligible. Period.

"Nev" above is wrong. C-ville has one of the worst crime rates in Va, by fbi stats.Which is no cause for panic-most areas of the city and Albemarle county are quite safe.But don't fool yourself about downtown and areas near the U. Much simple assault (mere mugging) goes unreported and students, believe me, under report crime-they just don't want to bother. I'd say there are more areas than you'd like to know about that are not safe after say, 10PM. Part of the problem is a tradition of complacent policing.

In my opinion, the only reason anyone would not understand and admit that we have an unacceptable problem with the underclass in our community, is:

a) They are lying (to protect vested interests). Maybe they're lying to themselves. I stopped going downtown over this issue, but a store owner might like me to believe reports of the risk are overblown. However, my ear is to the ground, and I am aware that we do not know enough about what is going on.

b) They are ignorant (not stupid). I've talked with people who were still completely oblivious to what has been happening.

c) They are stupid.

d) They are naive. As a child in NYC, my family was a victim of home invasion, and we children were beaten and robbed in the streets until we moved out. I see the writing on the wall here and I will not put my family at a similar risk.

For decades now, society has been trying to help various self-disenfranchised cultures assimilate. Given the risk to our civilization (I don't believe I am overstating the case), the apparent escalation in violence, and the inability of the police to protect us (and you ain't seen nuthin' yet), I vote to send in the National Guard and rout them immediately!