News Journal: Making New Castle County seem less safe than it is

delawareonline ヲ The News Journal, Wilmington, Del. ヲ Del. homicide rate down from 2006

According to the most recent figures, law enforcement agencies around the state have reported 40 homicides this year — more than half of them in Wilmington and New Castle County — compared with the total of 45 on the record for 2006.

The italics are mine. The subhead of the article reads: “40 reported so far, more than half of them in NCCo, Wilmington”

At first glance, over half of the murders taking place in one county might make that county seem dangerous, but even a moment’s thought should dispel that notion. Looking at the numbers in the article, we see ten homicides being investigated by New Castle County police and thirteen by the City of Wilmington police. That’s twenty three of forty, or 57.5% of the state total. But according to the Census Bureau, New Castle County has over 60% of the state’s population, putting their rate below state average, but just barely.

Looking even closer, let’s separate out the City of Wilmington. Wilmington has just under 9% of the state’s population, yet housed almost one-third of Delaware’s homicides. (The good news for City residents, if you want to look at it that way, based on conversations I’ve had with police officers and politicians over the years, is that most of the homicides are narcotics-related, rather than being random acts of violence. People being murdered in Wilmington are usually targeted, rather than being completely innocent victims.)

Let’s separate out Wilmington from New Castle County. (These numbers will be approximate since the Census Bureau’s population estimates are for different years.) Removing the City of Wilmington from the New Castle County totals, leaves suburban New Castle County with 53% percent of the states’ population while only having 25% of the state’s homicides.

Just for comparison’s sake, let’s look at our Southern counties combined, since the article doesn’t break out their totals. They had 17 homicides, or 42.5% of the total, while having roughly 38.5% of the state’s population. Slightly above state average, but not horribly so. Random variation in a sample this small would cover that.

So, despite the impression given by the News Journal, suburban New Castle County is the area with the fewest homicides on per capita basis. Which should be obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Delaware’s population totals and math.