Crime rates tell us where we stand

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2006

They say that numbers don’t lie, and that may be true.

But sometimes numbers don’t tell the complete story, either.

Take Selma’s crime rate.

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According to figures from a national study, Selma’s violent crime rate is three and a half times the national average.

That sounds high. Many residents may not be surprised by that number. What might surprise you, however, is that Selma’s crime rate appears to be in line with other cities our size throughout the state, including Anniston, Opelika and Prattville.

The common denominator when comparing crime rates usually seems to be unemployment rates.

According to a 2003 FBI report and a separate study of incomes in Alabama, cities in counties with high per capita incomes tend to have lower crime statistics.

Huntsville had a violent crime rate of 6.1 occurrences per 1,000 people. The city is located in Madison County, which has the second-highest per capita income in the state at more than $23,000.

Selma (Dallas, $14,000) had a violent crime rate of 20.8 occurrences per 1,000 people. Dallas County also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at 7.8 percent.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said the number of violent crimes has actually decreased in Dallas County, as have the number of robberies and burglaries.

Numbers such as those found in surveys and reports can be a good measuring tool to tell us where we stand and what needs to be done to improve our situation. They can also be used as a shell game, twisted and turned to distract us from the truth -keeping us so busy that nothing happens to better our community.

We encourage our community leaders to take the information available to them, and find creative solutions to fight crime in our area.