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City crime: Looking for a quick fix

January 23. 2014 12:40AM

Just days after the city police released 2013 crime data showing a big spike in violent crime, Manchester’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a plan to fund the hiring of five new police officers. Seldom does government respond that quickly to a pressing need. City residents should not expect the crime rate to respond as quickly once the officers are hired.

Police Department data show a 24 percent increase in violent crime last year, driven largely by a 46 percent increase in robberies. Crime figures fluctuate a lot from year to year, but those increases are unusually large. It is too early to tell whether they are an aberration or the tip of a longer-term crime wave. But the long-term trend for Manchester has been distressingly negative.

FBI data show that there were 106 more violent crimes in Manchester in 2012 than there were in 2008. There were 39 more robberies. There was a big spike in violent crime in Manchester in 2011, but no drop in 2012, suggesting that 2011 was the tip of a wave.

Hiring more police officers certainly will help. But Police Chief David Mara noted something important in the department’s 2010 annual report. Discussing burglaries, he wrote that most are committed by a relatively small group of criminals and that “the most effective and expedient” way to decrease burglaries is “to incarcerate these individuals so they do not have the opportunity to commit future crimes.” The same goes for many other categories of violent and property crime.

Mara said he thought 2013’s rise in violent crime was largely drug related, as robberies are strongly associated with drug addicts looking to finance their next hit. This would suggest that hiring 26 new officers, as the chief wants, would not be the most efficient solution. A greater impact might be had by getting drug addicts the treatment they need instead of arresting them, locking them up, and starting the cycle over when they are released.

Cutting Manchester’s violent crime numbers will take more than hiring extra police officers.

Crime, law and justice Politics Public Safety Social issues Editorial Manchester

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