Backpedaling on crime

Caroline Hendrix, Senior Writer

Burlington, Vt., has seen a sharp increase in the number of stolen bikes coming into early 2022 — The New York Times reports more than 200 bikes stolen from June through August alone.

The community felt that local police were not adequately acting on these thefts and created the Facebook group “BVT Stolen Bike Report and Recovery” in order to connect community members in the search of these stolen bikes. Michael Corkery, a reporter with The New York Times, connects this rise in property crime to a larger stream of crime across the U.S. and its major cities. 

In Burlington alone, The Washington Post explains that thefts and “street level crimes” are on the rise in the midst of a smaller police force and understaffing following George Floyd’s murder. But this article notes the regions that are not facing understaffing are still experiencing higher rates of crime, which might be a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic has led to an innumerable amount of distress on local and global scales while also being coupled with an economic downturn that has created widespread economic hardship as people battle unemployment. This is not to mention the ways that the pandemic has transformed the way we connect with others.

Thus, the pandemic is naturally a target to blame for more violence as communities struggle to adapt and survive to the current economic and social conditions. 

How does crime data contribute to the problem? The Washington Post identifies holes in the data collection of the FBI along with a mismatch between the FBI’s findings and both the CDC and The National Crime Victimization Survey’s findings apropos of crime. 

Justin Fox from The Washington Post explains that the FBI is working towards a new data system, which is leading to holes in the information provided to them by police. Additionally, violent crime was not reported by the FBI to have spiked during the pandemic while homicides had increased 34 percent from before the pandemic into 2021. 

The CDC reported a higher US homicide rate than the FBI and while the National Crime Victimization Survey has similar statistics to the FBI on violent crime; it also reported a spike in property crime in the largest cities since 2016 where the FBI does not. 

It is evident that data reporting is not standardized and sources have their own definitions as to what each type of crime constitutes when deciding what should be counted and what should not. 

We have seen the topic of crime become a major focus in the U.S. midterm elections, and if we want our politicians and policymakers to drive change in regions facing the most crime, they need accurate and up-to-date data. Otherwise, issues might be downplayed or certain types of crime that were misreported as more frequent than others might take precedence in conversations.  

Data drives decision making. It is used to identify problems and serve as a context for solutions. We cannot expect adequate solutions to come out of fragmented data. Cities and neighborhoods like Burlington are eager to find solutions to the rise in property crime in their area, but simply finding the missing bikes does not reach the root of the problem. 

It is important that community members are not left alone to fight crime in their area, but are supported by local and national government leaders to realize actionable and effective change.

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