We're working on a story that tells us how safe Tracy is, statistically speaking. What we've heard so far, officially, is that crime is down in Tank Town across the board.
The numbers, a police spokesman has said, is proof.
However, with several gang-member-on-gang-member attacks in the past month and nine homicides in the past 20 months, that isn't necessarily the public perception.
So, how can raw emotion and raw numbers be so different?
First, it's a well-known psychological phenomenon that people seize on the bad incidents and ignore the others. (It doesn't help that media outlets, including the Press, publicize the shootings, stabbings and other instances of violence.) It's an inaccuracy that comes from recalling powerful anecdotes and assuming those individual instances represent a general trend.
Second, it could be in the police reporting. Police have a set of guidelines for when they write up a report, and when something is documented as a crime. Certain situations are mandatory for police to write up. Other times, it depends on a victim's willingness to make a report. And other times, it's at the officer's discretion. So there could be instances that might be reported in some cases, and not in others.
Third, it could just be that, though crime overall is decreasing, there are more instances of violence that simply stand out.
Or fourth, it could be that a lot of the crime that's happening in the city isn't being reported. For instance, just the other day, my car had a rock the size of a grapefruit thrown through the front window while it was parked out in front of my house in Stockton, where I just moved to. (The perp didn't even have the decency to rip out the stereo.) But I didn't report the incident to police, because there was nothing they could do about. As a result of my not wanting to spend time on the phone, that definite crime will never be part of the official record. I'm sure I'm not alone when it comes to stuff like this.
Whatever the case, it's clear that perception of Tracy's safety in some quarters does not match with what the numbers are telling us. Very similar to something I wrote more than a year ago, as the city dealt with another seeming wave of violence.
Seems some things might never change...