Monday, January 29, 2007

DC Crime: Philly Inquirer vs. Washington Post

Why does the Philadelphia Inquirer have more insightful reporting of DC’s crime statistics than any local paper? This article from January 14 is better than anything the Post or Times or Examiner have published. It brings up points I wrote about in a post at the end of December: the economic and demographic changes taking place in DC (gentrification) helped lower the crime rate, and DC is exporting its crime problems to other local jurisdictions.

Admittedly, the Inquirer article only touches on other problems that gentrification causes: loss of affordable housing and disruption of communities, problems which the Washington Post seems to obsess over. But the article does balances its good-news story with a litany of DC’s problems: “drug trafficking, illegal firearms (in a city that bans handguns), reluctant witnesses, and a steady flow of ex-cons returning to the streets.”

The Philly piece also presents some fascinating statistics, which our hometown papers weren't able to dredge up during their coverage of the drop in the DC crime rate:

In DC, “the number of men ages 18 to 24 - those mostly likely to kill or be killed in any city - has fallen by a third in five years, according to those same estimates. This has come as Washington's overall population has grown.”

And “the District has about 80,000 more jobs than it did in 1998, the region 500,000 more.” In that same time period, Philadelphia lost 15,000 jobs.

These numbers beg some questions: where did all the young men go? Who has taken all those jobs? Near the end of the article is this paragraph, something similar I’ve never seen in any local paper:

“Even in some of the toughest neighborhoods of Washington, police say, young people now grow up knowing lots of adults who have succeeded in legitimate careers, not through drug dealing. So officials and activists can preach the value of staying in school and out of trouble without fear of sounding ridiculously out of touch.”

Is any of this true? Well, considering the Philly paper has no dogs in DC’s political fights, which are boiling over with issues of gentrification, race, class, and crime, it’s probably more or less objective and therefore trustworthy.

Maybe DC is doing better than it was when I first moved here, not just for those with money, but also for those less fortunate. Maybe some of those 500,000 new jobs went to people in our poorest neighborhoods, and Mayor Williams’ ideas of economic growth were correct. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for good news.

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