The Cranky Taxpayer

The Cranky Taxpayer

Crime Rate


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The Virginia State Police publish an annual report on Crime in Virginia.  They count the "Type A" offenses reported per police unit:

Arson
Assault
Bribery
Burglary
Counterfeiting/Forgery
Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property
Drug/Narcotic Offenses
Embezzlement
Extortion/Blackmail
Fraud Offenses
Gambling Offenses
Homicide
Kidnapping/Abduction
Larceny/Theft
Motor Vehicle Theft
Pornography/Obscene Material
Prostitution Offenses
Robbery
Sex Offenses, Forcible & Nonforcible
Stolen Property Offenses
Weapon Law Violations

These data have their peculiarities.  The first obvious one: The totals reported by VSP are different, in most cases, from the sums of offenses.  For example, for 2017 the VSP reports 19,270 offenses reported to the Richmond Police Dep't but the total of the Richmond offenses listed in the same table with that 19,270 is 20,705, a 7.4% difference.  When I inquired about the difference, they responded:

There can be multiple offenses within an incident. If a murder, rape and robbery occur in one incident (one event), all offenses are counted under Incident Based Reporting. The old UCR Summary System used the hierarchy rule and counted only one offense per incident.

That certainly is true, but it does not explain the discrepancy: Whatever they are counting, the total should be the total.  (The table says it reports "offenses.")  In any case, the numbers below are their totals.

They report the numbers by police agency, both the local force and, in most cases, the State Police.  For example, the Richmond Police Department shows 19,270 incident reports and the State Police show 233 in Richmond.  The report also includes data for the colleges, the Capitol Police, and state agencies such as the ABC Board.  Finally, the small jurisdictions produce some weird statistics because even a small variation can produce a large change in the crime rate.  As well, the State Police report a significant fraction of the incidents in some small jurisdictions; for instance, in Craig County in 2017, the sheriff reported 22 incidents while the State Police reported 20.

I produced the data below by leaving out the data for the State Police (9,709 offenses, 2.5% of the total) and State agencies (8,633 offenses, 2.2% of the total).  I also left out the jurisdictions with populations <10,000 (19,980 offenses, 5.1%).  That's a total of 38,322, 9.7% of the 394,197 total offenses.

BTW: The VCU total (not included in Richmond's total) was 1,207.

Here, then, are the remaining 2017 data (pdf), expressed as Type A offense reports per 100 population vs. population.[1] 

2017 Offenses v. Population

Richmond is the gold square.  The red diamonds, from the left, are the peer jurisdictions of Hampton, Newport News, and Norfolk.

There is no particular reason to expect these data to fit a straight line but Excel is happy to fit one.  The slope suggests that the rate (per hundred population) increases by about 0.15 for a population increase of 100,000.  The R2, however, tells us that population explains less than 1% of the variance in the crime rate; i.e., overall crime rate (by this measure) does not correlate with jurisdiction size.

Here is the same graph, with the axis expanded to cut off the Big Guys (Fairfax, Va. Beach, Prince Wm., Chesterfield, Loudoun, and Henrico) in order to emphasize the distribution of the smaller jurisdictions.

Among the jurisdictions with populations >10,000, we are seventh in the state, with a rate 1.94 times the state average.

Department Population Total per 100
DANVILLE POLICE DEPARTMEN 41358 4993 12.07
ROANOKE CITY POLICE DEPAR 99908 11567 11.58
PORTSMOUTH LAW ENFORCEMEN 95440 10462 10.96
FREDERICKSBURG POLICE DEP 27645 2958 10.70
COLONIAL HEIGHTS POLICE D 17320 1668 9.63
PETERSBURG BUREAU OF POLI 31705 2766 8.72
RICHMOND POLICE DEPARTMEN 222853 19270 8.65
CITY OF MARTINSVILLE POLI 13382 1064 7.95
NORFOLK POLICE DEPARTMENT 246256 19294 7.83
BRISTOL VIRGINIA POLICE D 17160 1319 7.69

(Blame the cut off department names on the VSP database, which appears to truncate at 25 characters.)

Here are the totals for the eighteen largest jurisdictions, sorted by rate, with the grand total for all but the smallest (<10K) jurisdictions.

Department Population Offenses per 100
ROANOKE CITY POLICE DEPAR          99,908 11567 11.58
RICHMOND POLICE DEPARTMEN        222,853 19270 8.65
NORFOLK POLICE DEPARTMENT        246,256 19294 7.83
NEWPORT NEWS PD        182,155 13867 7.61
HAMPTON POLICE DIVISION        136,743 10059 7.36
CHESAPEAKE POLICE DEPARTM        242,655 14823 6.11
HENRICO PD        324,395 15897 4.90
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY POLIC        340,020 16450 4.84
VIRGINIA BEACH POLICE DEP        454,448 21297 4.69
STAFFORD COUNTY SHERIFF'S        145,699 5995 4.11
ALEXANDRIA POLICE DEPARTM        160,719 6135 3.82
HANOVER COUNTY SHERIFFS O          98,726 3357 3.40
SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY SO  (        131,549 4467 3.40
FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE DEP    1,102,568 35393 3.21
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY POL        447,233 14100 3.15
ALBEMARLE COUNTY POLICE D        107,697 3290 3.05
ARLINGTON COUNTY POLICE        239,074 7115 2.98
LOUDOUN COUNTY SHERIFF'S        333,164 7842 2.35
   
Large Jurisdictions    7,997,093      355,875 4.45

You'll notice dramatic difference between the large cities and the large counties.

CAVEATS: These numbers tell us about overall crime rates but not about the environment faced by any particular citizen.  As well, the VSP emphasizes that, as we see above, population is not a good predictor of crime rate.  They list other factors:

1. Population density and degree of urbanization;
2. Population variations in composition and stability;
3. Economic conditions and employment availability;
4. Mores, cultural conditions, education, and religious characteristics;
5. Family cohesiveness;
6. Climate, including seasonal weather conditions;
7. Effective strength of the police force;
8. Standards governing appointments to the police force;
9. Attitudes and policies of the courts, prosecutors and corrections;
10. Citizen attitudes toward crime and police;
11. The administrative and investigative efficiency of police agencies and the organization and cooperation of adjoining and overlapping police jurisdictions;
12. Crime reporting practices of citizens.

The 2017 Richmond rate increased slightly to 8.65 from 8.61 in 2016. 

The Type A total is driven by the property crime numbers: Typically the larceny, vandalism, and motor vehicle theft numbers will account for 2/3 of the Type A total.  To see how violent and drug crime are doing, we have to look underneath the totals.

When we do that, we see that the Richmond count of simple assaults dropped while the drug and weapon law numbers rose.

Note: This graph and those immediately below report the raw counts of offenses reported in Richmond, not the count per 100K.  Throughout this period, the Richmond population has been near 200,000, with very little change, so you can get close to the rates per 100 by dividing these numbers by 2,000.

The robbery numbers continued a long downward trend; aggravated assaults rose slightly.

The "other" sex crimes (non forcible) showed a jump, as did the murder count.  Kidnapping, rape, and arson enjoyed decreases.  The decreases from the early 2000's, both here and above, are remarkable.

For a list of the hot blocks in Richmond see this page.  And see this page for data showing a nice improvement in Forest Hill.

Much of Richmond's plethora of crime is drug-related

To complement the still outrageous crime rate, our schools are among the worst in the state and our public housing agency maintains a sanctuary for crime on its property.  To support all this dysfunction, we pay some of the highest taxes in the state.  Go figure.


[1] Mr. Westerberg of the State Police kindly furnished a copy of the data as an Excel spreadsheet so I didn't have to copy the numbers out of the PDF file on the web.

 

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Last updated 08/07/18
Please send questions or comments to John Butcher