Study shows Annapolis crime is concentrated

Analysis links offenses, low-cost housing

most suspects don't live there

June 22, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

Sometime in the near future, members of the Annapolis Police Department will have detailed crime-mapping data at their fingertips, allowing the department to analyze trends and re-evaluate its strategies.

A new crime study for the city unveiled last week gave a first glimpse of the kinds of information that number-crunching will be able to provide.

Using satellite images and crime statistics, the consulting group ICMA confirmed that violent crime last year was clustered around public housing and private, low-income housing, along with the downtown area.

The $60,000 report, commissioned late last year, recommended that the city police shift toward targeted enforcement of "hot spot" areas.

It's a strategy that former police chief Joseph S. Johnson resisted but his interim successor, Michael A. Pristoop, has supported since his first day on the job in April.

According to the report, just 2 percent of locations throughout the city account for 30 percent of the calls to police for service.

Several locations lined the West Street corridor from Church Circle to Taylor Avenue; other top call locations included the Robinwood public housing community and the Bywater area.

Other findings:

* Reports of major crime and shootings were almost exclusively clustered in the public housing and private low-income housing areas.

* The researchers said there is generally a correlation between unemployment and robberies, but in Annapolis that was not the case. In the early part of this decade, robberies were down when unemployment was up. More recently, the two have flipped.

* Overall, the city's homicide rate in 2007 was three times the national rate, approaching or higher than the rates for Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and Boston.

The national rate was about six per 100,000 residents; the state homicide rate was about 10. Annapolis, a city of 35,000, had 19 per 100,000 residents. In past years, Annapolis' rate was 11, eight, 14, 11 and 11 per 100,000 residents.

"Everybody, not just this city, has experienced this pyramid of going up," Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said.

Still, violent crime and property crime totals were at the same level as 2000. Homicide and motor vehicle theft were on an upward trend, but rape and theft were down. Robbery, aggravated assault and burglary were relatively static.

The consultants compared Annapolis to other cities of similar sizes, though they cautioned that the historic state capital, as a tourist hub, was unique and that comparisons should be taken with a grain of salt.

Moyer has long made this argument, though others say that the number of visitors is irrelevant because violent crimes are not occurring in such tourist magnet areas as City Dock and the Naval Academy.

Essex, Frederick, Hagerstown, Rockville, Salisbury and Wheaton-Glenmont were selected as comparison areas, based on population and presence of public and subsidized housing.

Among those, Annapolis was third in violent crime rate and property rate in 2007, trailing Salisbury and Essex (though 2006 statistics were used for Essex).

Citizens For a Better Annapolis, headed by former housing authority executive directors Trudy McFall and Dennis Conti, has issued similar reports recently and said the consultant's report mirrored some of their findings.

But McFall argued that the consultants should have used their tools to also analyze so-called "Part Two" crimes, such as drug activity, prostitution and vandalism.

McFall and Conti's research showed that the city had 3.6 times more drug arrests than cities of comparable size, and they believe that drug traffic is a key factor driving violence.

They also found that almost a third of those arrested lived or said they lived outside the city.

More than 75 percent of those arrested on public housing property said they didn't live in one of the city's 10 public housing communities.

"For too long, Annapolis has treated our public housing areas as if they were 'federal reservations' and the city has not given them a level of policing that is appropriate for the crimes that are committed there," McFall said.

"These policing practices have allowed Annapolis' low-income housing communities to become soft spots for crime, particularly drug-related activities, attracting outsiders and violent crimes."

"If it takes national experts to help deliver the message loud and clear to the city that public housing is part of the city and needs more police protection, then that is a great result of this work."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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