Is it SAFE yet?

This one’s for the people who live in the city of Wilmington, Delaware—I’m one of them—and its current mayor, Dennis P. Williams. It concerns two unacceptable conditions: too many shootings and FAR too many homicides.

Every city in this country experiences homicides and shootings, but ours seems to earn top-three status on the nation’s terrible list far too often, and it’s been going on for years.

Chris Barrish, an investigative reporter for The News Journal, has called city leaders to task many times over the years, the last twelve in particular. Both his reasoning and statistics are—and have always been—spot on.

But Chris is a reporter for the state’s preeminent statewide publication. He has to temper his writing—and always does so—keeping who, what, when, where, why, and how as his prime directive. Oh, and he has to deal with, lest we forget, E-D-I-T-O-R-S!

I, on the other hand, am under no such restrictions. I’m not a reporter, nor do I consider myself a commentator. Although The News Journal carries mine—it’s the fifth one on the list—I’m just a blogger.

And while I, too, try to stick with journalism’s cardinal rule of reporting (who, what, when, where, why, and how), I don’t hesitate—even a little bit—to share my OPINIONS. Nor do I have to deal with editors.

So, with this in mind, here are my latest compilation of homicide statistics, along with a personal message to Mayor Williams. And as a point of reference regarding my statistics, I taught inferential statistics for over 30-years before retiring in January 2003.

Mr. Mayor, you’re beginning your tenth month in office. It’s well past the time for you to stop reminding everyone that you ARE the mayor, that you ARE a leader, and that LEADERS make decisions.

People know that you’re the mayor. It was in the newspapers; the local call-in talkies made the fact crystal clear; and, of course, you have reminded us ad nauseum of the fact.

And, YES, it is a fact that leaders make decisions; it’s a fundamental tenet of LEADERSHIP 101. However, sometimes the decisions are good ones and sometimes they’re not so good.

You’ve made some good ones, but you’ve also made a couple of colossally bad ones. You know what they were, so there is no need to rehash them here.

But my point is that a few bad decisions does not necessarily translate to leadership felonies. I think this describes your performance to date. You’re human, and like the rest of us humans, you’ve made a few mistakes; hopefully you’ve learned from them, and you’ve moved on.

Now to the point of leadership. Here’s the thing, Mr. Mayor. True leaders have to prove the fact and thus earn the title; they can’t simply proclaim it.

But this does not stop politicians from self-canonizing themselves as patron saints of leadership. And they get away with it because the electorate in this country automatically assumes that it’s electing leaders.

However, while we sometimes do manage to elect a true leader, it’s not the norm; just look at the U. S. Congress over the past sixteen-years—the last six of them in particular.

We generally do not elect leaders; we elect people who are good at getting elected because they have the money, the time, and the hutzpah to pander to various lowest common denominators.

Your longevity in the General Assembly proves nothing in terms of any leadership ability; there’s no way to assign direct accountability. It proves nothing other than that you’re adept at getting yourself elected and perpetually reelected.

But running a city is another matter altogether. You’re the top dog and we can hold you directly accountable for most of the things that happen.

I voted for you, Mr. Williams, but I haven’t made any decisions relative to your leadership capability. Ten months in office—as Wilmington’s Mayor—is not a long enough time to make a solid evaluation.

But among those things for which we can hold you somewhat accountable—although not entirely—is the city’s homicide rate. It’s improved during your first ten months in office, but there’s still no reason for bragging.

For the year 2012, the population for the entire State of Delaware was listed at 917,092 people. We experienced fifty-seven (57) homicides for a rate of 6.2 per 100,000 people.

For the same year, Wilmington’s population was listed at 70,851 people. We experienced twenty-six (26) homicides, giving us a homicide rate of 36.7 per 100,000 people.

Putting this into perspective, Wilmington accounted for 7.7% of the state’s population; yet it accounted for 45.6% of its homicides. In other words, Wilmington’s homicide rate was 492% greater than was the entire state’s.

I went back and pulled a random sample of 12-years (1999 through 2012). Over those 12-years we experienced an average of 17 homicides per year (plus or minus 10). In terms of an average for homicides per 100,000 people, it came to 23.2 over the same period.

As of 10/28/2013, the city had experienced fifteen (15) homicides, including two at the New Castle County courthouse. We are currently 84.1% of the way through the year 2013. The city’s population over the same period remained at approximately 70,851 people.

If the trend continues, we will have experienced a homicide rate per 100,000 people of about 25.2 for the year 2013. However, I expect it will be higher because we still have almost two full months to go.

The confidence level in my stats is 95%, but the confidence interval is quite high (around a plus or minus 57%). While such a high confidence interval does not reduce accuracy, it does prove that multiple factors influence homicide rates, several of them outside of this mayor’s control.

So while we can’t blame all of it on this mayor, or any of the previous ones, we can’t attribute ALL of the improvement to him, either. But we can give him substantial credit for it.

City killings are down by about 42% this year compared to last year, and the mayor deserves some of the credit. At a minimum, it’s worth a handful of “atta-boys” on the leadership side of the ledger.

Keep it going, Mr. Mayor; you’re getting there; I’d really love for you to succeed. And if you could manage to avoid any more Velda Jones Potter-type fiascoes—among a few others—your leadership “atta-boy” count (at least in my book) will steadily continue to climb.

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