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These crime numbers don't lie

Violent crime in Buffalo jumped 6.5 percent last year, according to new stats released by the FBI. The increase, which contrasts with a nationwide decline of 2.5 percent, is largely explained by an increase in aggravated assaults.

I cover the  police beat one day every three or four weeks, which partly involves reviewing arrest and crime incident reports, and I am not the least bit surprised by the numbers. There is a lot of ugly behavior in the streets of this city, as well as behind closed doors, particularly on the East Side and Lower West Side.

I read a lot of reports involving (1) brutal beatings in the streets and (2) men violating orders of protection to attack estranged wives, former wives and ex-girlfriends. The latter happens so frequently that I question if the courts take seriously enough violations of orders of protection.

News that violent crime is up puts to lie one of Mayor Byron Brown's main campaign themes -- that crime is down and the city is safer under his watch. Tell that to Javon Jackson's grieving mother.

Yes, the overall crime rate has dipped 2.1 percent, when property and other non-violent crimes are factored in.

But the measure of a city's safety is largely based on personal safety, which begins with freedom from fear of rape, assault and other street-level mayhem. And in this regard, Buffalo's numbers are headed in the wrong direction. Aggravated assaults increased 13 percent from 2007 to 2008, while rapes were up 6 percent.

On a related front, the University Heights Answer Lady has two very interesting posts on crime stats  here  and here. Well worth the read. I like the Answer Lady's spunk.

Buffalo reporting crime info -- sort of

After a long wait, Buffalo police are now posting crime information online. However, in keeping with the department's recent history of trying to limit the public's right to know what is going on in the city's neighborhoods, the department is putting up only the most skeletal of information.

All you'll find out, on a limited number of crimes, is the block the crime occurred on and the most general of descriptions of the crime, usually a word or two like "theft" or "assault."

The police have the ability to provide citizens much more useful information while still protecting legitimate privacy rights. But, as I have reported over the course of the past year, the department since Mayor Bryon Brown took office has been making less, not more crime information available to the press, and therefore, the public.

Going online gives the mayor and his department a reason to say they're providing more info, and in one sense, that's true. But the police could be providing much more.

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