Saturday, January 3, 2009

Crime & Poverty in Early Depression Dayton

The 1933 housing survey is one of the very first studies to provide sociological data on the city, delving into things like tuberculosis rates, servants per household, and so forth, and mapping them out by voting precinct. The study maps crime, showing felony cases and juvenile delinquency investigations. There is also a map for “policewomens cases”, but doesn’t provide any information as to what these are.

The study also maps out numbers of families on relief and poor relief costs per capita .

So one can see if there is a correlation between poverty and crime.

One of the rationalizations behind modern Dayton’s high crime rate is that it’s caused by poverty. This seems to be a good example of mistaking causation for correlation, not to mention disrespecting the poor by implying they are incipient criminals. By using these early Depression figures one can see if there are geographic correlations, and if they are consistent: high crime areas are always high poverty areas.

First, felonies for 1932, with the highest concentration of felony cases noted. There were 282 felony cases bound over to the Grand Jury (presumably going to trial), so this is not a crime report map, but cases going to trial map.

The highest concentration was south of Third Street, in todays Wright-Dunbar neighborhood, with high concentrations in nearby precincts and in the Oregon/near east side.

Juvenile delinquency. Sounds so retro, conjuring up images of West Side Story. West Side Story had Officer Krupke and it appears Dayton’s Officer Krupke was Sergant Snyder, as the map is based on his records, with one dot = one boy investigated. Perhaps the policewomen investigated delinquent girls?

In this case there are considerably more juvenile delinquency reports than felonies going to trial, and the geography was more extensive, with concentrations in Newcom Plain on the east side and Old North Dayton.

Next, a look at poverty. This map shows two things, the amount per capita spent on poor relief and numbers of families on relief. This map is pre-Depression, from 1929, showing that there was already substantial concentrations of poverty in the city. Poor relief during this era was mostly via private charity.

The number of family on relief data will be used as a proxy for the geographic extent of poverty.

Overlaying the number of family on relief by precinct over the felonies, one can see there is some correlation. Yet, the precincts with the most families on relief are not ncessicarily the precincts with the highest number of felonies. In fact there are tracts with over 30 families that have three or fewer felonies. In only one precinct, along Hawthorn north of Broadway in todays inner west area, is there a strong correlation.

For juvenile delinquency one also can’t generalize, as there high concentrations of delinquency investigations in areas have less than 10 families on relief, like parts of Newcom Plain, todays Tals Corner/Linden in the Huffman district, and Old North Dayton.

The delinquency numbers are from 1933, one of the low points of the Depression, and the relief numbers are from 1929, so maybe an indication of a more disordered society as hard times deepened? It would be fascinating to see a geographic mapping of the increase in relief in 1933 and 1934 to see the spread of the Depression in Dayton, and to see if precinct seeing more poor relief in the 1930s are also seeing increases in delinquency investigations.

But the correlation between high poverty indications and felony cases seems to be weaker. If causation = correlation there might be a deeper and more consistent correlation, with the highest crime areas being the highest poverty indication areas.

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