Thursday, December 08, 2005

ABQ: How Crime Ridden Is It? We Take A Look From Both Sides, Plus: TV News; Creating Fear Or Reporting It? Here's Your Thursday Blog, No Bail Required 

Does ABQ get a bad rap when it comes to crime? The matter came up after I riffed in my "state of the city" that the "ongoing crime wave" was the Duke City's biggest problem. But ABQ Journal science writer John Fleck, who we blogged about on a different matter Wednesday, chooses to see the bright side of the equation. He e-mails in: "Joe, this is from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report:

Albuquerque MSA, violent crimes per 100,000 residents: 2000--945.7--2004--842.8

There's clearly an 'ongoing TV news crime wave,' but by the best measure we've got violent crime has declined over the last five years in Albuquerque," corresponds Fleck.

Well, John has a point. But the rate of violent crime has been going down everywhere as the population ages and as tough on crime platforms take hold. But when you look at the FBI's 2004 violent crime report, you see that ABQ's reputation as a violent place is not entirely undeserved.

According to the 2004 stats, the national rate of violent crimes per 100,00 persons is 465.5. ABQ, as Fleck pointed out, comes in with a rate of 842.8. Yes. it is down from 2000, as it is elsewhere, but compared to the rest of the nation the city still ranks #14 on the list of most violent metro areas. There are more than 320 metro areas ranked.


As for Fleck's 'ongoing TV crime wave,' it deserves serious consideration. The local TV's have been criticized nationally for going overboard and insiders here will even tell you they fear straying to far from the crime beat and risk a setback in the ratings.

Even NM TV news dean Dick Knipfing has defended his station's heavy crime coverage saying ABQ is "a violent town." But does that mean it has to be the dominant theme night after night? Apparently so if you want to attract viewers who are still interested. But according to one study between May 1997 and May 2003, early-evening news programs lost 16% of their available audience share or more than 3% a year. Late news programs lost even more, 18%, again more than 3% each year. Will constant crime coverage win them back?


The bottom line is that ABQ, compared to other metro areas, does have a very serious crime problem. But it's also worth pointing out that many victims of crime are themselves involved in criminal activity. For the vast majority, living in ABQ is not a proposition that puts your life in danger as media coverage might sometime convey. In fact, most residents are most concerned about property crime which gets only scattered attention because it lacks the sensation of the latest shooting.

The folks who run the TV news game are hard working professionals who mostly get it right and get it fast. And there is plenty of crime to report. But the steady diet of crime headlines make their broadcasts borderline irrelevant to an ever-growing number of educated viewers who used to watch religiously. Now, in the name of ratings, they often appeal to the lowest common denominator. While that may not be a crime, it is a shame.

Thanks to John for the thought provoker. You can catch more of him on his very own blog.

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