Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Link Between Neglect And Burglary

Possibly reacting to headlines versus statistics, the Durham City Council was characterized recently as berating the police chief regarding the type of crime for which Durham is below average. But the angst was focused on the wrong type of crime and the wrong department.

The annual comparison of crime in 11 communities in the Southeast compU.S. and 28 nationwide that are similar in size and make-up reveals once again that overall Durham crime is below or near average, with the exception of one type of crime - burglary.

Hopefully the Durham Police Department is deploying or will soon deploy best practices in what has come to be called “predictive policing” including algorithms and statistical linkages.  But there is reason to believe other departments should be held as much or more responsible for reducing burglary.

While Durham is rapidly catching up on long-overdue street maintenance, it wasn't just street surfaces that had been neglected. Durham has long overlooked and some residents think neglected the overall maintenance of roadsides, medians, parks and other public infrastructure including maintenance and upkeep around the public’s buildings and property.

If the City Council wants to ask some tough questions in pursuit of solutions to burglary, the only type of crime where Durham is above average, it needs to drill down into why the operating maintenance related to the community’s overall curb appeal has been similarly permitted to degrade.

For example, an analysis in Arlington, Texas has revealed that for every one unit of physical decay or neglect in or near neighborhoods there are six burglaries in that same area.  In fact, physical neglect is a means to identify at-risk neighborhoods for burglary.

One neglected building or home can put a block at risk but when public infrastructure, including roadsides and medians, are neglected as well then the risk for crime must be even greater. The City of Durham’s elected officials and senior management must come to grips with the fact that failing to maintain the community's overall curb appeal has ramifications far beyond just appearance.

As we eventually did to to overcome our denial about the importance of overall street maintenance, it is time to restore operating maintenance budgets for roadsides, medians , and other areas of visual neglect that are degrading the community's curb appeal and putting residents at risk.

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