hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 15, 2012

Editorial: Reason to doubt latest crime stats


Mayor James Fiorentini and the Police Department have some great news for the city: Crime was down last year and down dramatically in one category in particular: burglaries. (See story on page 1.)

A burglary, by FBI definition, is the unlawful entry of a home or other structure to commit a felony or theft.

As anyone who has even been the victim of a burglary can tell you, it's a crime that leaves you feeling not just angry but also violated. It's maddening to think that some lowlife entered your residence, pawed through your personal belongings, stole possessions you worked hard for and very likely sold them to some other lowlife to buy drugs.

So a major drop in burglaries is something to celebrate.

According to the official statistics, the number of burglaries plummeted from 803 in 2010 to 484 last year, a 40 percent decline.

Frankly, we're skeptical.

For one thing, that kind of success is something the typical police chief would be shouting from the roof tops.

Not if you're Alan DeNaro.

Haverhill's police chief is a famously poor communicator but when asked to talk about the apparent success of his officers in combatting burglaries, he had no comment. Not even a "Good job, all."

If DeNaro knows the secret to preventing burglaries, you'd think he'd let the public in on it, if only so they can protect themselves.

There's another reason to be skeptical of the claims burglaries have been almost halved.

The reported 40 percent decline in burglaries is a real statistical outlier.

If you leave out burglaries, most other types of crime went up or stayed about the same.

Robberies were up 15 percent, motor vehicles thefts soared by 21 percent. Larcenies were up "only" 4 percent, but the number of larcenies hit almost 1,000. Larceny includes stealing without force, everything from bike thefts to shoplifting.

So, three out of four property crimes increased; the fourth not only decreased but decreased by a stunning 40 percent. Hmmm.

Fiorentini touted the crime drop in his most recent newsletter, but apparently DeNaro isn't telling the mayor much either.

"We do not really know what causes crime numbers to go up and down," the mayor said in the newsletter.

Sorry, mayor, a good cop would know why burglaries were down 40 percent in one year, and a good cop would explain it to the public.