Bill Hightower said 1,700 families generate 80 percent of crime in Mobile, but is that true?

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During AL.com’s Reckon debate on April 18, Alabama State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Bill Hightower said that in Mobile approximately “1,700 families generate 80 percent of the crime.”

But is this statistic correct?

“The general idea that a few people are engaged in a lot of problem behavior and criminal behavior makes a lot of sense and would be consistent with what we see with a lot of other types of crime,” Adam Lankford, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Alabama told AL.com.

And his statement holds up; according to one study conducted by the Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health in 2013, “a majority of violent crimes are perpetrated by a small number of persistent violent offenders.” A more recent study by the Crime Prevention Research Center also concluded that 2 percent of counties in the nation make up 52 percent of murders throughout the nation; Mobile county was included in that statistic.

The thought process is consistent with data found by criminologists. However, according to Politifact, Hightower was basing his remark on research from the Mobile County district attorney’s office which found that, “of the 65,000 students in the district, only 1,500 students were responsible for 75 to 80 percent of serious school infractions. The district attorney then cross-referenced the students with home addresses to identify 1,200 households.”

Hightower’s point is compatible with available data from several sources, but he failed to correctly describe it.

Crime rates in Mobile have been significantly declining over the past ten years. In 2006, there were approximately 17,000 crimes compared to only 13,407 in 2014, but according to the Mobile Police Department, crimes in the first three months of 2017 and 2018 are trending higher than the first three months of 2015 and 2016.

Although crime rates overall have been trending down, the county’s violent crime rate is on the rise.

Mobile County experienced a total of 61 homicides in 2016, compared to 34 homicides in 2006; and when you compare the first three months of 2017 and 2018, the number of rapes in the county are on track to hit the 120 mark this year, compared to 89 in 2016.

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