Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Mean Streets of Germantown?

Jay Bullock, pace Jim Rowen (who really, really, really hates suburbs), argues that it is more dangerous to live in suburban or exurban counties than in Milwaukee County because the combination of traffic deaths and stranger murders are higher in the former than in the latter. Jay's take away: "Whatever you may think of life here in the urban hellhole that is Milwaukee, it's a lot safer than life in a lot of those exurban hellholes to the north and west of here." (Both Jay and Jim link to a post extolling the wisdom of a woman who lets her 9 year old ride the New York subway alone and citing a University of Virginia study.)

Well, not quite. If one limits the analysis to stranger murders and traffic deaths, it may be safer to live in Milwaukee than in Washington County. Both Ozaukee and Waukesha counties remain safer than Milwaukee.

But even this is problematic. Jay - or, more accurately, the study he relies upon - fudge the numbers by limiting homicide deaths to stranger murders thereby limiting most homicides. You are most likely to be killed by someone you know and one of the reasons that people leave Milwaukee - or certain parts of it - is that so they will not know or be in the vicinity of people who might kill them.

In addition, the exclusion of homicide by acquaintance reflects the reason that traffic accidents are not interchangeable with stranger murders. The justification for exclusion is that homicide by an acquaintance is not quite a random event to which everyone in the city is subject. If you avoid certain areas, people and activities, you are much less likely to be killed by someone you know. As the study on which Jay relies puts it, stranger homicide is most likely to happen when you are just going abot your routine business. Stay out of trouble and you'll be safer.

But traffic accidents are not completely random either. You can't immunize yourself from them, but if you drive defensively, stay off your smart phone and don't drink and drive, you are much less likely to be killed in a traffic accident.

Having said that, I do agree with the title of Jay's post that Milwaukee is safer than - at least many people - think. Most parts of the city are relatively crime free. Not like Mequon to be sure, but reasonably safe places to live and work. In that sense, he's right.

But there is a confounding factor. Most of Milwaukee's violent crime is highly concentrated. In some parts of the city, violent crime is a rather large problem. The continuing determination of liberals to want to minimize that has always puzzled me. It is not wealthy white Republican guys that suffer from the problem.

One final point. I don't know that violent crime is a major cause of exodus to the suburbs. It seems to me that the major positive reason is that people like space. And the major negative reason is that they do not like the Milwaukee Public Schools.

At all.

8 comments:

Dad29 said...

Most of Milwaukee's violent crime is highly concentrated.

Yup. Where drug deals are done.

John Foust said...

Maybe in your next piece you can ponder why some suburban bloggers like to fantasize about what they'll do with a big knife, more ammo, or an army of deer hunters.

Anonymous said...

One final point. I don't know that violent crime is a major cause of exodus to the suburbs. It seems to me that the major positive reason is that people like space. And the major negative reason is that they do not like the Milwaukee Public Schools.

White flight to the burbs
Milwaukee you've come a long ways from
The days of Father Groppi
Yeah right

Anonymous said...

Ironic a catholic university in the inner city that privileged white professors commute to from the white burbs

Billiam said...

Foust, your fixation on Dad29 is approaching the fringes of another bloggers on Walker. There's help out there for that.

John McAdams said...

Gosh, Foust, you seem to be engaged in wild fantasies about what "suburban bloggers like to fantasize about."

Dad29 said...

Per the 1/1 JS, murders are UP in Milwaukee.

Raises the bar for Germantown.

John Foust said...

I only report the crazy, I don't write the fantasies about big knives, trigger finger control, and constant references to bending-over-here-it-comes.