The Statesman recently highlighted an increase in homicides from 22 in ’09 to 37 in ’10. While the piece provided a compelling visualization with the long-term count of homicides in Austin, it did not provide data that adjusted for the city’s population growth. In the chart below, I provide the number of homicides per 100,000 residents within the city’s total area, as well as a 3-year trailing average.
Austin appears to have bottomed at around 2.8 homicides per 100k residents. I wonder if the recent increase in rate volatility combined with the potential for a trailing average uptick in the near future is a result of more young men migrating into Austin, or perhaps a shift in the underlying community demographics towards a younger city.
Given the relatively high proportion of the City of Austin budget dedicated towards public safety, it seems feasible to ask for policymakers and APD to anticipate a demographic shift and begin putting programs (e.g. targeted after-school for boys with behavior issues at school) in place that can mitigate the effects of the shift. A lot of our effectiveness in catching a potential wave will depend on the urgency placed on public safety risk management by the City Council. I say ‘risk management’ because it’s unclear if indeed there’s a fundamental demographic transition that will make the days of 2.8/100k extremely difficult to repeat; however, the data should make us want to hedge against that possiblity. Hopefully, this chart gets the (some?) conversation started.