I read, first with amusement, then with genuine concern, the deceptive letter to The Tribune from District 1 Council Member Dan J. Coffey in Sunday’s edition.

With help from my bride, I quickly found the Department of Justice’s Web statistics page, managed by DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. As Mr. Coffey was brazen enough to try (yet again) to pose as an expert and to (yet again) mislead the public and especially The Tribune’s readership, we both thought it might be instructive to report to you the actual and official numbers on crime in New Albany.

In isolation, of course, crime rates are meaningless. And to any victim and to any community, any crime is undesirable. But when statistics, manufactured or actual, are used by a politician to support goals inimical to the welfare of the public he purports to serve, a challenge is in order. Coffey chose to compare New Albany with the much larger city of Gary, Indiana. Gary, of course, is part of an enormous metropolitan area that dwarfs our own. It is somewhat notorious among Indiana cities for a high crime rate. Mr. Coffey wrote that our own city’s crime rate is higher than Gary’s.

New Albany (37,080) has 37 percent of the population reported for the city of Gary (100,065), so while we will report the raw numbers, we will also report the comparative numbers. That is, if New Albany maintained its current rate for various crimes, but actually contained 100,065 residents, we are reporting a calculated number.

Here are the facts for the latest reporting period (2005):

• Violent crimes: Gary – 718; New Albany – 166/New Albany adjusted – 447. Thus New Albany’s violent crime rate is 62.4% of that of Gary.

• Murder/Non-negligent manslaughter: Gary – 58; New Albany – 0.

• Forcible rape: Gary – 70; New Albany – 11/New Albany adjusted – 30, or 42% of that of Gary.

• Robbery: Gary – 306; New Albany – 62/New Albany adjusted – 167, or 55% of that of Gary.

• Aggravated assault: Gary – 284; New Albany – 93/New Albany adjusted – 250, or 88% of that of Gary.

• Property crimes: Gary – 5,310; New Albany – 2,331/New Albany adjusted – 6,290, Actually a higher rate than Gary’s.

Note that property crimes (burglary, larceny, etc.) is the only reported statistical category in which New Albany even begins to have a crime rate approaching that of Gary. Anyone who wishes to examine even that category will discover that the only reason our rate exceeds that of Gary is that our larceny numbers are higher. Rates for burglary (home invasion, breaking and entering), the most serious property crimes, are far below Gary’s. Larceny is defined by the DOJ as “the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another. Examples are thefts of bicycles or automobile accessories, shoplifting, pocket-picking, or the stealing of any property or article which is not taken by force and violence or by fraud. Attempted larcenies are included. Embezzlement, confidence games, forgery, worthless checks, etc., are excluded.”

So New Albany has more “reported” petty crime than Gary, Indiana. That could be because the residents of New Albany report more petty crimes. It could be because our police department treats petty crimes more seriously than Gary’s police department.

Does any of what is reported here justify Mr. Coffey’s statements? Or is Mr. Coffey, once again, lying to the public?

Though not easy to navigate, readers can visit http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cvict.htm to compare New Albany’s crime statistics with any other city’s. I guess Mr. Coffey never imagined someone might actually do so and thus refute his barefaced lies.

Randy Smith is a resident and business owner in New Albany.

Trending Video

Recommended for you