Tuesday, May 27, 2008

That "Crime" stuff, do we have it here?

The whole adventure at the Hayward (with the shooting, and the helicopters, and the... GLAVIN!) has us all thinking about Crime over here. I thought I would do a little digging to find out how much of it we actually have.

The LAPD keeps monthly stats and makes them available on their "COMPSAT" site. Let's take a quick compare between Downtown and out old 'hood, Silver Lake (Northeast division.)

Northeast division recorded 463 violent crimes among it's quarter of a million peeps last year, or 1.852 per 1,000 population. Not bad!

Central division saw 363 violent crimes in 40,000 residents for a rate of 9.075 crimes per 1,000 population! EVERYBODY PANIC!

Wait, I don't feel very dead. How can this be?

Well, looking out the window I see hella lot more than forty thousand people. More like four HUNDRED thousand, which is the "daytime population" number for Downtown thrown around by people like the National real estate investor and Blogdowntown. The true number is probably higher (just as the true number for the night time population is probably closer to fifty or sixty thousand.) But plugging in our new daytime numbers gives a violent crime rate of 0.9 crimes per 1,000 population. Nice! Half the crime rate of Silver Lake! But this number is probably misleading as well.

The problem is, there are daytime crimes that will affect the daytime office-and-shopping population, and nighttime crimes that will affect those who live here. Lofties will be safer than SRO residents from some crimes, like burglary, but will be affected more by other crimes like theft-from-vehicle. So how do we get our thoughts around the real danger?

This problem was the subject of a paper by Richard Peiser and Jiaqi Xiong presented in the Journal of Real Estate Research, Oct-Dec 2003. Their goal was to quantify the actual danger presented to a daytime shopper, using 1997 police crime stats. Their somewhat surprising result was that they found that a shopper was twice as likely to be victimized shopping in Santa Monica than in Downtown LA, even back in 1997! Think of that. You are much safer wondering around Downtown with a wad of money and a dreamy look on your face than you would be in Santa Monica, at least in the daytime. At night? Not so much.

Still, the "conventional" crime rate for downtown is very high, and without any information as to whether the crimes are day or night, it is hard to say what our true risk is on nights and weekends. However, my gut feeling is that the more people there are on the street at any given moment, (and Downtown, this number is going nowhere but up,) the lower the risk. Perhaps the LAPD can shed some light on this, given Bratton's famous love for stats and computers. I'll ask.

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