Friday, August 14, 2009

Georgia Has a Best Town In It...

...Lord have mercy on us all!

Annual best places to live rankings were published this summer and while no Georgia city made the US News and World Report top 10, Peachtree City snagged the number eight spot on the CNN Money Magazine rankings. Dunwoody was nowhere to be found.

Why is that?

As US News explains in their methodology page, crime statistics play a significant part. Seems like a good idea to live in a place with low crime, even if you're a criminal (less competition). If we compare Peachtree City and Dunwoody we find that Dunwoody not only has more violent and property crime than Peachtree City but that it is more than double the national average.

Some have posited that Dunwoody stats are inflated because they are reported as part of DeKalb's stats and when these are disaggregated the true, and more flattering, image of Dunwoody will emerge. This puts folks who ardently support both Dunwoody and the Dunwoody PD (and its likely expansion) in a tight spot. You simply cannot tout Dunwoody as a wonderful place to live, evoking pastoral images of Mayberry and Rockwellian vignettes of a calmer, safer time filled with Lemonade Days and Fourth of July Parades, and then turn around and justify a 40+ member police force with no traffic enforcement division (and yet consuming over 40% of our budget) by claiming crime in Dunwoody makes this necessary. You also cannot ignore the recent daytime burglaries.

When this contradiction was pointed out to a popular local blogger he immediately pulled a post touting his belief that Dunwoody was somehow slighted, that not making the list was DeKalb's fault, that Dunwoody was and would be proven better. This retraction was sad recognition of an obvious political dilema with an equally obvious solution: support the PD over PR even if that means supporting the PD over reality. We have transitioned to a chauvanistic Deutschland, Deutschland ├╝ber alles from the pollyannish Mayberry, RFD that got us a city in the first place.

But just where does that lead? We have what many say is an already bloated police department that others contend is understaffed even at these levels--after all there are those daytime burglaries. Still others, especially those told there is no traffic enforcement division, see executive and management incompetence.

One thing is certain, the police force will not shrink, and its growth will always be justified as a public safety necessity. It is the only way to sell it. Unfortunately this promotion of Dunwoody as a high crime area, or even as an island of calm where safety is maintained by constant patrols of an armed militia, does nothing to improve Dunwoody's stature as a great place to live.

So if we must have prophylactic patrols, let them be traffic enforcement. Surely flashing blue lights at a traffic stop will do more to advertise a benign police presence than sulking black and whites. After all the goal should be to make our community safer, even from speeders and let criminals know this is not a good place to set up shop. This can be done without sending the message that Dunwoody is dangerous crime pit.

Imagine how the current "crime drives staff expansion" PR campaign affects property values. Suppose you are relocating from a nice quiet town in another state and you are looking at houses in Dunwoody. As the real estate agent drives you around, you can't help but notice the police. They're everywhere. All over the mall. Cruising the neighborhoods. Dunwoody PD. DeKalb PD. MARTA. Mall cops. Folks, cops don't prevent crime, they respond to crime, going to where the crime leads them.

There must be something we can do and there is. If you believe the stats are inflated, the PD too large and mismanaged, then take action. Elections are coming up. Let your voice be heard. If you believe crime is bad and getting worse, protect yourself. Don't become another statistic. And dear reader, you can always do both.