Is it hot enough for you?
Actually, today hasn’t been that bad, but yesterday...sheesh, that was unwelcome. It takes me a while to accilmate to the heat and humidity of summer, and after our stunning spring, yesterday’s weather was simply jarring, causing my body to unsuspectingly shut down shortly after 10 pm.
As a result of the early bedtime, I got way more sleep than usual and have subsequently been paying for it today. Too much sleep turns my brain to mush and makes me extremely tired throughout the day. Even writing simple emails has been challenging.
So, in answer to my own question: Yes, it’s hot enough. Thankfully, the weekend promises some relief.
Anyway, enough complaining. How about we Round Up some news?
Lies, Damn Lies and Police Statistics: As the local rags tell us in large, bold headlines, Crime Is On The Rise in Howard County, at least when comparing the first quarter of this year with the same three months from last year. Of particular concern are the increases in burglaries (up 49 percent), robberies (up 20 percent) and rapes (up 75 percent). Naturally, the police department has its own spin on these increases.
"We closed 36 construction site thefts with one arrest," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn; another 25 commercial burglaries in Elkridge were also cleared with one arrest. Mild winter weather may have helped boost criminal activity, she said, though a three-month period can see wild fluctuations from year to year.On robberies:
"One person can have a huge impact in three months," Llewellyn said. Burglaries jumped from 234 in the first quarter of 2005 to 348 in the same period this year. The number of homicides remained unchanged at one reported during the three-month period.
While police are working to get burglaries under control, Llewellyn said officers have made headway against their robbery problem, creating a task force that has seen results.And on rapes:
In February, police temporarily reassigned officers from various agencies to participate in the robbery task force and increased both the undercover and uniformed presence throughout Columbia.
The result was a decline in the number of robbery cases in the county in the early part of 2006 and an increase in arrests for those serious crimes, police statistics show.
During the task force’s efforts, police made 62 violent-crime arrests as officers worked in the villages of Long Reach, Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake and Harper’s Choice. At the same time, robbery incidents in the county dropped to 14 in February and 16 in March, from 40 cases in January.
Reported rapes were also up, from eight last year to 14 this year, but police said that represents improved reporting rather than a real increase in crimes - a contention supported by Jeannie Meece, executive director of the nonprofit Sexual Trauma, Treatment Advocacy and Recovery Center.All of this department spin sounds reasonable, and when you look at the actual numbers, it’s hard to say we’re in the midst of a crime epidemic. Still, you can’t explain away the fact that crime rates have increased and our community suffers because of it.
Police Chief Wayne Livesay, who is leaving office today after 8 1/2 years, said, "We know more rapes happen each year than those that are reported to police. We're glad more women feel they can come forward after being so terribly victimized."
Meece said she agrees with the police assessment, because the number of rapes reported to the STTAR program typically runs one-third higher than police statistics. In the first quarter, however, the program recorded only two more rapes than police did.
What’s more, the timing of the news – the day Livesay retires – surely isn’t good for his campaign.
More generally, I think crime statistics are a little suspect. What do they actually tell us? Can they effectively measure a police department’s performance? To be sure, preventing crime is a major part of what the police do, but how much of it is out of their hands. How do we square an increase in crime rates with an increase in number of arrests, as was the case last quarter?
What about crimes that go unreported, like so many rapes regrettably do? Also, what about people like this guy who commit crime after crime after crime? In this county, his transgressions can have a nontrivial effect on the overall county crime statistics. Finally, what about police who game the system and under- or over-report based on expediency?
In other news, the Battle of Turf Valley rages on.
That’s all for today!