In the original blog post I took Mayor Williams to task for not doing enough to reduce the city's homicide rate. It would appear that I was incorrect in that assessment. Zero Tolerance patrols and interdiction, V-GRIP and assistance from Federal agencies like BATF, FBI and U.S. Marshals have all been effective resources in reducing the homicide rate for the 2007-2011 time frame. Neighborhood block watch programs have also been effective. As the graph shows, 39 homicides were committed in 2007. That number has decreased each year until leveling out this year and last at 22, assuming there are no murders committed between now and Saturday night. This decrease has also occurred during a severe recession. Urban myth would have us believe that crime increases during such times of economic hardship.
As good as it is that the overall number of homicides committed has dropped, it is troubling to see certain trends within the data. In examining the age range of victims we can see that the number of children killed who were less than 10 years old is troubling. These are victims that cannot effectively defend themselves in a situation where an adult is determined to harm them.
Further, the age range of 18-25 is disproportionately represented in the data. 46 of the 134 homicide victims or 34% fall into this age range. This is hardly surprising given that this age group has many factors working against it. Many homicides are drug related and dealing drugs is an easy way to make money in a city where the unemployment is officially 8.9% and most likely higher than that if one takes into account the underemployed and those who have given up looking for a job or exhausted their unemployment benefits.
Certain areas of the city are also disproportionately represented in the data. This graph and its accompanying map plot homicides by zip code for the five years studied. Zip code 44505 on the city's East side recorded 36 of the 134 homicides that occurred, the most of any zip code within the city. Following the map to zip codes 44506, 44502, 44507 and ending at 44511 paints a bleak picture for the East and South sides of the city.
In fact, those areas appear to be pushing Youngstown above the national average for homicides. Nationally the homicide rate for the United States is 4.8 per 100,000 people. If homicides for only 44509 (8), 44510 (5), 44504 (7) and 44512 (1) are counted, the average is 4.2 per year or 5.46 per 100,000 people. This number is much more in line with the national rate.
The original blog post in 2007 gathered comments that stated the city administration has this data and uses it for planning. That is good news. However, the goal here is to get this data into the hands of people who can use it to make decisions about where they live and how they make improvements in those neighborhoods affected by high rates. Ideally, someone could use this as a starting step to other demographic studies such as incomes for these areas, education rates, unemployment statistics, property values and similar studies. Mayor Sammarone's administration is making transparency in government and federal assistance a priority. Hopefully residents of Youngstown can use this data to help steer assistance to the places it is most needed.