Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Do We Sleep at Night?

Maeve Powlick, a young woman with a Ph.D. in economics, made a presentation at the Police Committee meeting on Monday night. She works with Candace LaRue and Associates, the group that wrote the successful application for Hudson's Promise Neighborhood planning grant. She was at the meeting to tell about the City of Hudson's recently submitted application for a Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program grant and to share some rather startling statistics.

Powlick explained that the purpose of the Byrne grant is to help communities "reduce crime by building community assets." Some of the assets mentioned were social, developmental, commercial, recreational. Powlick talked about the need to understand "what is driving crime in Hudson" and to define the characteristics of the people committing crimes. She described the Byrne project as an "economic development grant that insists that the most vulnerable segment of the population is not left out."

The grant application requires that a target neighborhood be identified that is the "hot spot of crime." In Hudson, that hot spot has been identified as the Second and Fourth wards--nearly half the city. Powlick's presentation included a chart similar to this one, comparing crime in the target neighborhood with the rest of Hudson.

Powlick defined Part 1 crimes as "theft, rape, murder, aggravated assault, burglary, and robbery." "Drug arrests and harassment" were mentioned as Part 2 crimes. Although there is a marked difference between the number of Part 2 crimes committed in the target area as compared with the rest of the city, the difference in Part 1 crimes is not that dramatic. According to Powlick, the number of crimes per 1,000 residents is significantly higher all over Hudson than it is in the target area of Yonkers. The rate of crime in the target area of Yonkers is less than half what the rate of crime is in Hudson's target area. Powlick more than once described Hudson as "a small city with big city problems."

Powlick also presented statistics about the types of crime committed in Hudson, which may provide some insight into why there is not a significant difference between the rate of Part 1 crimes in the target area and the rest of the city. Theft represents 83 percent of the crimes, aggravated assault 11 percent, rape 1 percent, strangulation 1 percent, arson 2 percent, and other 2 percent. No information was provided about the nature of the crimes categorized as "other."

The Byrne grant, if awarded, is $1 million over three years. The first year will involve planning and research, the next two years implementation. The grant application was submitted at the beginning of June, and Powlick hopes to know the outcome by the end of the summer because the program is meant to start in October.


  1. Carole, did she say in which year the crimes occurred?

    1. Sorry, Mr. M, to have left out that bit of information. The statistics are from 2011.

  2. Yes sad to say the data from many years and many sources paints a picture of a deeply troubled place. The Comptroller of NY State placed Hudson at #1 of all New York State cities in "social stress". If the new Lords of Hudson, Galvan, have their way and create lots more infrastructure for homeless and troubled people, and the prisons don't close, then it's hard to see how Hudson will move meaningfully far forward. But it will still be a fun place to visit.

  3. A crime spreadsheet for 2011 is at least a step in the right direction, but there is already Compstat, a system which detects patterns in crime in real time.

    Compstat software is used throughout the US, and is an important component of Wilson's and Kelling's "Broken Windows Theory" that so improved New York City under and since Giuliani's tenure.

    Another component of the theory, "reducing crime by building community assets" (quoted from the above post) is also encompassed by the Broken Windows Theory.

    So why does it take $3 million to reinvent the wheel?

    I may have an inkling.

    As with the "community assets" idea, the Broken Windows approach to crime works best when residents take an interest in their own neighborhoods.

    But where the Broken Windows idea specifically focuses on small crimes like littering and keeping neighborhoods clean and free of signs of disorder by pursuing infractions and then imposing penalties, the $3 million needed for the "neighborhood" study will invariably look for softer solutions.

    Judging by exactly half of the locations in the "Promise Neighborhood" meet-and-greet experiment held in the City of Hudson on May 25th, program aides were so naive about the neighborhoods they were serving that the presence of the program actually contributed to and fostered neighborhood disorder.

    When a police car drove by the group's Front Street location, the already disorderly crowd of rowdy youths erupted into a single shouting mob at the police. The table was unapproachable, and though I tried to catch an aide's attention from a short distance the scene which was created by their own failure (refusal?) to instill order proved too distracting for them to include anyone outside the rowdy group.

    When I phoned the program's sponsors at Catholic Charities to describe the menacing scene, I could sense the silent accusation that I was being racist (the predictable clap-trap of sociological excuse-makers).

    I suspect that that's what the $3 million grant will get you ... that, and one-year old statistics.

    Here's an idea: how about something more obvious that doesn't require so much study, something that works in real time and that imposes penalties for the kind of scene I observed on Front Street on May 25th?

    I reckon that "Broken Windows" is a different theory after all.

    1. Just a clarification, unheimlich. It's $1 million over three years, not $1 million every year for three years.

  4. Thanks for the clarification, Gossips.

    In that case I recant all. (Not!)