Our View: Columbus' crime perception problem




Let's call it the Yogi Berra effect. 


Berra, the lovable, but somewhat muddled catcher for the New York Yankees, was once asked about a popular New York nightspot. 


"Nobody goes there anymore," he said. "It's too crowded." 


For several years now, some folks in Columbus have been wringing their hands over the increase in crime in the city. Depending on who you talk to, crime is steadily increasing, maybe even skyrocketing. 


That's a common perception. 


But perception is not always reality. 


A six-year comparison of crime in Columbus reveals no discernible pattern that suggests more felony crimes are being committed now than in 2012. Over that period, some kinds of crimes have ticked up, some have fallen. Most fluctuate from year to year. 


The bulk of those crimes are property crimes. Burglary accounted for 3127 of the 4001 crimes listed, which is 78 percent. 


Arrests for aggravated assault, a high percentage of them related to domestic abuse, totaled 439. 


In 2017, there were 50 cases of aggravated assault, the lowest number in six years and 37 fewer than in 2014, which saw the greatest number of arrests for that offense. 


Over that span there have been 18 murders and 200 sex crimes, ranging from rape to fondling to statutory rape. 


These are serious crimes which take heavy tolls in the lives of our neighbors. One murder, one rape, one aggravated assault is a tragedy, and while there is no acceptable level of crime in any community, the immutable truth is that crimes will occur and they will often occur in areas with concentrations of poverty. While there is no evidence that poverty causes crime, there little dispute that a link between the two exists. 


Columbus is no exception, of course. 


But to suggest that crime is "out of control" or "soaring" is not consistent with the evidence. This perceived boom in crime is largely a function of social-media fear-mongering, we suspect. 


In his first inaugural address, FDR said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." 


While no one can credibly say that there is no serious crime in Columbus, the idea that our streets are suddenly running red with blood is not only a gross exaggeration but counter-productive, damaging our city's morale and image.



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