Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Danger Zones

Danger Zones

Much political hay has been made of both denouncing and promoting the recent report by Morgan Quitno that called St. Louis the most dangerous city in the U.S., using data submitted by the Police Department to the FBI for its Uniform Crime Report.

Mayor Slay, his chief of staff Jeff Rainford, and Police Chief Mokwa have made numerous statements decrying these sorts of reports, pointing out the major crime problems are confined to a few neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, most people assume they're talking about North St. Louis, which allows them to assure the suburban public that downtown is perfectly safe.

However, if you look at pure per capita statistics, downtown looks pretty dangerous. That's because, despite recent rapid growth, downtown's 24-hour resident population is still pretty low. Downtown is reasonably safe, though.

It's the Southside that's of special concern to me.

We clearly have a number of neighborhoods in South St. Louis that have high concentrations of criminal activity. Whether it's more or less than in sections of North St. Louis is not that important. Both areas have their hot spots.

And both North St. Louis and South St. Louis have some very nice, quiet blocks too!

Anyway, I started playing with some data. They are the 2006 Year-to-Date Crime by Neighborhood report downloadable on the Police Department website; and population by neighborhood (from 2000) available from the City website. I ranked the neighborhoods by various categories adjusted for population and for land area.

Some highlights:

Top 20: Total Index Crime Per 100 Population

Downtown = 254
Near North Riverfront = 60
Downtown West = 60
Riverview = 35
Cheltenham = 35
Mark Twain I-70 Industrial = 24
Covenant Blu-Grand Center = 23
Patch = 23
Fountain Park = 20
Fairground = 20
Gravois Park = 19
Old North St. Louis = 19
Kingsway East = 18
Lewis Place = 18
Kingsway West = 17
Penrose = 17
Jeff Vander Lou = 17
The Ville = 17
Central West End = 17
Vandeventer = 16

Top 20: Crimes Against Persons Per 100 Population

Downtown = 21
Downtown West = 7
Near North Riverfront = 7
Fairground = 6
Gravois Park = 5
Mark Twain I-70 Industrial = 5
Fountain Park = 5
Jeff Vander Lou = 5
Wells-Goodfellow = 4
Carr Square = 4
Walnut Park West = 4
Academy = 4
Lewis Place = 4
Covenant Blu-Grand Center = 4
Walnut Park East = 4
The Ville = 4
Old North St. Louis = 4
O'Fallon = 3
Hamilton Heights = 3
Kingsway East = 3

Of course, on per capita figures downtown, industrial areas, and heavily depopulated areas in North City score particularly badly. But you get different findings when instead of adjusting the crime figures for population, you adjust them for land area in square miles. You find that some areas on the Southside have crime rates comparable to, even in some cases higher than, those on the Northside.

Top 20: Total Index Crimes Per Square Mile

Gravois Park = 2,479
Downtown = 2,025
Tower Grove East = 1,954
Benton Park West = 1,735
O'Fallon = 1,716
Penrose = 1,652
Kingsway West = 1,621
Kingsway East = 1,610
Fairground = 1,594
Fountain Park = 1,513
Columbus Square = 1,505
Walnut Park West = 1,428
Dutchtown = 1,326
The Greater Ville = 1,308
Fox Park = 1,271
Walnut Park East = 1,236
Central West End = 1,234
DeBaliviere Place = 1,234
Hamilton Heights = 1,215

Top 20: Crimes Against Persons Per Square Mile

Gravois Park = 652
Fairground = 471
Benton Park West = 438
Walnut Park West = 426
O'Fallon = 424
Academy = 363
Fountain Park = 361
Columbus Square = 333
Dutchtown = 331
Walnut Park East = 306
Kingsway East = 302
Wells-Goodfellow = 297
The Greater Ville = 277
Hamilton Heights = 275
Tower Grove East = 255
Lewis Place = 252
Carr Square = 250
Kingsway West = 241
Jeff Vander Lou = 238
The Ville = 232

I focus here on crimes against persons including murder, rape, assault, and robbery. But if you look at property crime, you find that some very "safe" areas have comparable rates per square mile to those in "dangerous" areas. For example:

Property Crimes Per Square Mile

St. Louis Place (near Northside) = 412
Princeton Heights (far Southwest) = 410

Bottom line: Crime is a citywide problem, not one confined just to a few neighborhoods north of Delmar.


Anonymous said...

Unless you are adjusting for time of crime, wouldn't you want to adjust those figures for daytime/nighttime population? Downtown, for example, has an additional XX,XXX thousand people in it during the day -- and the Target on Hampton, Saint Louis University, and the CWE shopping district -- are much bigger or smaller at different times of the day.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Gravois Park has replaced McRee Town as the Southside's least safe neighborhood. Then again, many former McRee Town residents moved to Gravois Park (plus Benton Park West and Dutchtown), as recorded during relocations leading upto the Botanical Heights project.

Anonymous said...

Aren't downtown statistics drastically skewed given the very high number of people who visit downtown during the year?

Between the Arch and Busch stadium, downtown gets something like 6,000,000 visitors per year.

Crimes against all of them and their cars are then divided by the 10,000 or so current downtown residents to come up with crime per 100 residents statistics which don't mean anything.