By John Hubbuch
I suspect some people were surprised to read that crime in Oak Park dropped 16 percent for the first 9 months of 2011 compared to 2010. That drop should not be all that surprising. Crime has been dropping in Oak Park for decades. But perception of crime has not dropped. Everybody loves a good crime story. Every news media overplays crime because that's what draws eyeballs. Kudos to Dan Haley for at least thinking about wheher or not every theft of a garden hose or i-phone is a reportable news event.
I would go far to say that we may be even safer than we think we are. I'd be interested in the disaggregation of crime stats based on time, location and type. I'm never out past 10PM. I don't go to bars. I don't ride the EL at 2AM. Domestic disturbances are terrible, but I'm not less safe because the couple 4 blocks over get physical. Then there are the thefts of unlocked cars and open garages. Again, those are crimes, but I usually lock my car and close my garage door.
Maybe we need an individualized metric to evaluate the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime. By comparison, if you smoke, are obese and live next to a chemical factory you are less likely to have a healthy life. Individual factors matter. I appreciate that many "crime" variables are ones over which a person has no control. You have to take the EL because you have no car. I'm not blaming the victim. I am saying that how safe you are is in part a matter of perception, and that perception necessarily involves an individual assessment of risk, which will vary for people living in Oak Park.