Twice each year—at the beginning and end—I like to look at Delaware’s violent crime rate as well as its homicide rate. And I place particular weight on the city of Wilmington: my hometown. But my timing this year seems particularly apropos.
This morning The News Journal, Delaware’s premier statewide newspaper, ran an investigative piece written by Cris Barrish. Cris has been with the TNJ for many years, and is, in my opinion, one of the best investigative reporters in the region—if not THE best.
Here’s a link to the piece he wrote. But I must caution you that TNJ, for whatever reasons, thinks that people are willing to pay to read content on its webpage—though most AREN’T!. However, TNJ management gives online visitors a sampling of five freebies before denying access.
Delaware ranks SIXTH HIGHEST in the nation relative to violent crime. Its homicide rate alone sits at 5.2/100,000 for 2012, with over 54% of those homicides having been committed in the city of Wilmington. And even worse, with just a tad more than one and a half months into 2013, we’re on a pace to surpass it.
The favorite target for blame has been those “wrist-slapping” judges. While Delaware has some of those, they are a minority—and a small one at that. But as Cris points out so well, there is plenty of blame to go around.
And although he didn’t say it directly—I’m doing THAT—much of it should be aimed at Legislative Hall in Dover.
I’m not going to rehash Cris Barrish’s piece here; it speaks for itself. But I live in the city of Wilmington on the west side’s northern fringes where we’ve experienced one homicide in about the last twenty to twenty-five years.
In fact, most of Wilmington’s zip codes are home to racially and ethnically diverse, relatively peaceful neighborhoods comprised of very hard-working shirtsleeve Americans.
Most of the violent crime, including homicides, comes from just a few southern fringes, west and east side areas. But the entire city AND state carry the aggregate black eye.
Delaware experienced 48 homicides in 2012, and 54% of those occurred in Wilmington (26 of them). But these numbers don’t mean much if all we do is compare them to absolutes.
During the same year, for example, Philadelphia, PA had 331 homicides; Chicago had 516 homicides; and New York City had 414 of them. These numbers dwarf the 26 homicides in Wilmington, DE for the same period. But we can’t ignore population size.
Wilmington’s population for 2012 was only 70,851 people. New York City’s population was 8,300,000 people; Chicago’s population was 2,800,000 people; and Philadelphia’s population was about 1,500,000 people.
Their respective homicide rates were 36.7/100,000 for Wilmington, 5/100,000 for NYC, 18.4/100,000 for Chicago, and about 22/100,000 for Philadelphia.
Think about it! For the year 2012, Wilmington was 634% more dangerous than New York City, 99% more dangerous than Chicago, and almost 67% more dangerous than Philadelphia.
And even these numbers don’t hit home with the impact that they should have. So let’s look at it another way.
If New York City had experienced Wilmington, Delaware’s 36.7/100,000 population homicide rate, the “City That Never Sleeps” would have endured about 3,046 homicides. Chicago would have endured 1,028 homicides, And the “City of Brotherly Love” (Philadelphia) would have endured about 551 homicides.
And I suspect that the mayors, police commissioners, and police chiefs of those cities would have been running at full-tilt just to stay ahead of the human masses carrying pitchforks and torches!
But here we are, living in a state with a population of 917,100 people on a landmass of about 1,954 square miles.
In terms of population, we could fit over 21 Delawares inside of New York, just about 14 Delawares inside of Illinois, and about the same number inside of Pennsylvania.
In terms of landmass, 24 Delawares could fit inside of New York, almost 28.5 Delawares could fit inside of Illinois, and just about 23 Delawares could fit inside of Pennsylvania.
And in terms of per capita elected officials, Delaware dwarfs New York, Illinois, AND Pennsylvania! Yet, in spite of all of this, Delaware ranks SIXTH HIGHEST in terms of violent crimes.
I have never advocated mandatory minimum sentences. And I’m not doing so now. But this state needs to revise its sentencing guidelines and require Delaware Judges to follow them.
A very small percentage of violent thugs—mostly repeat offenders—are causing all the havoc. We have more than ample prison space to cage these folks without any need to build more prisons. All we’d have to do is apply some more common sense to the way we treat drug users.