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MLB In San Antonio

How many crimes does your police department solve?

Fewer than you think, unfortunately.

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Violent crime in America has been falling for two decades. That’s the good news. The bad news is, when crimes occur, they mostly go unpunished.

In fact, for most major crimes, police don’t even make an arrest or identify a suspect. That’s what police call “clearing” a crime; the “clearance rate” is the percentage of offenses cleared.

In 2013, the national clearance rate for homicide was 64 percent, and it’s far lower for other violent offenses and property crimes.

University of Maryland criminologist Charles Wellford says police have shifted priorities over the decades.

“In the ’60s and ’70s, no one thought that the police should be held responsible for how much crime there was,” Wellford says. Back then, he adds, police focused on calls for service and solving crimes.

In more recent years, he says, police have been pushed to focus more on prevention, which has taken precedence over solving crimes — especially non-violent offenses.

In short, the falling crime rate we’ve enjoyed may come at a cost: police indifference when you report your stereo was stolen.

I admit, that wouldn’t have occurred to me. I would have thought that with less crime, police departments would be more able to solve the crimes that were committed, since there would be less of a workload. I’m not a criminologist and I haven’t read any research on this, but my initial reaction here is to be a little skeptical. In what ways are police departments focused on crime prevention, and what evidence is there that those methods are working? My gut says that police departments these days – really, for the past thirty or so years – have concentrated on drug-related crimes. While I would agree that there’s some ancillary prevention benefit in that, we all know that this comes with a variety of costs. Maybe the national effort to decriminalize some drug offenses will have the benefit of allowing police departments to once again focus on solving the crimes that really do victimize the public.

The article comes with a utility to look up the crime clearance rates in your own community. Here’s what it showed for some of Texas’ biggest cities:

All violent crime Homicide Property crime City 2011 2012 2013 2011 2012 2013 2011 2012 2013 ====================================================================== Houston 46% 39% 37% 90% 70% 76% 13% 12% 11% Abilene 47% 49% 64% 80% 100% 100% 25% 22% 20% Amarillo 40% 45% 48% 60% 100% 44% 18% 19% 22% Austin 49% 49% 57% 93% 87% 100% 12% 12% 13% Beaumont 70% 70% 69% 100% 100% 75% 23% 28% 27% Corpus Christi 54% 53% 45% 67% 63% 100% 20% 23% 19% Dallas 38% 40% 37% 65% 58% 60% 13% 11% 11% El Paso 48% 47% 49% 88% 96% 80% 18% 20% 22% Fort Worth 36% 38% 39% 61% 80% 86% 14% 16% 17% Laredo 80% 80% 79% 64% 88% 100% 20% 24% 28% Lubbock 30% 32% 34% 50% 73% 100% 15% 15% 19% McAllen 56% 66% 38% 50% 100% 0% 20% 22% 16% Midland 66% 68% 59% 100% 75% 40% 22% 25% 27% Plano 54% 51% 47% 80% 100% 100% 22% 22% 19% San Antonio 48% 36% 37% 80% 70% 75% 12% 11% 12% Waco 56% 56% 55% 91% 67% 50% 23% 23% 26%

Note that these are all for the above-named cities’ municipal police departments. I limited myself to cities that I could think of that had a population of at least 100,000. (Galveston, in case you were wondering, has about 48,000 people.) “Violent crime” includes “Murder and non-negligent manslaughter”, which I characterize above as “Homicide”, “Robbery”, and “Aggravated assault”. “Property Crime” includes “Burglary”, “Larceny-theft”, “Motor vehicle theft”, and “Arson”.

Don’t be too mesmerized by the Homicide solve rates for smaller cities. The total annual number for these crimes in cities of, say, 100,000 to 200,000, is often in the single digits. McAllen, for example, had 4 homicides in 2011, one in 2012, and two in 2013. In a few cases, such as Beaumont for 2011 and 2012, the number of murders solved was greater than the number of murders. My guess is that the solved crimes included cold cases, but there was no explanation on the site. I just listed those as 100% to avoid weirdness.

What stands out to me in all this is that generally speaking the smaller cities had much better solve rates for property crimes than the big cities. In Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin, the solve rates for property crimes never topped 13%, but in the smaller cities it ranged from 18% to 28%. Fort Worth and Lubbock were the outliers there, on the low end. I’m not sure what to make of that, but it sure is interesting.

What application does this have to the 2015 Mayor’s race? (You knew I was going to get around to that, I’m sure.) Well, in addition to my wish that the candidates will eventually start to talk about public safety in a more comprehensive way, I’d think that a candidate who promised to have his police force concentrate on solving property crimes might be able to sway a voter or two. Lord knows, the Nextdoor discussion list for the greater Heights area spends a lot of time on break-ins and thefts and the like. Given how many of these crimes do go unsolved today, it seems to me there’s some traction to be gained on this issue. Just a thought.

More MLB-to-San-Antonio rumors

Believe them at your peril.

Could the Oakland A’s find a home in San Antonio?

At least one Oakland elected official thinks so, but Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says San Antonio sports fans shouldn’t hold their breath.

“There’s nothing happening over here,” Wolff said.

“Our name’s been thrown out, but we went through that with the New Orleans Saints. I went through that with the Marlins. We didn’t spend a lot of local money but we spent a lot of time on it. You get these owners telling you one thing, and the baseball guys, administration, telling you something else. They’re going to have to be a hell of a lot more serious and a hell of a lot more coordinated to expect any of these communities to express any interest in it.”

However, Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid said he doesn’t believe the A’s are bluffing in their threat to leave the city if they don’t get a 10-year lease extension at the Coliseum.

Reid told San Francisco Chronicle blogger Phil Matier that San Antonio and Montreal are possible destinations should the A’s not get the deal they want.

“They have options,” Reid said, citing sources among the Coliseum Authority negotiators who have been working for 14 months to try to reach an A’s lease extension.

When asked if he thought the threat was real, Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley said, “I’d put money on it.”

Here’s the blog post on which this story is based. It mentions that Montreal is another possible relocation option for the A’s, and in doing so broke my brand-new Irony-O-Meter. I paid forty bucks for the damn thing, too – guess I better mail in that warranty form. Anyway, as noted before, San Antonio may be a viable landing place (or expanding place) for a MLB team someday, but that day is not today, and likely won’t be anytime soon. San Antonio and – I can’t say it with a straight face, so please pardon the guffaw – Montreal are much more useful to MLB right now as points of leverage in this sort of negotiation. If it ever gets more serious than that, I trust that grassroots folks like MLB in San Antonio will be a bit more chatty on social media about it than they are currently. Enjoy the All-Star break, y’all. There should be some real baseball news again soon.

Still dreaming about MLB in San Antonio

From The Rivard Report, a grassroots group in the Alamo City is keeping hope alive.

If you’ve been a San Antonio sports fan for any length of time, you’ve heard it. It’s the label that the Alamo City has been saddled with for decades. Whenever the topic of a new sports franchise in San Antonio arises in the national media, the card is played and the discussion moves on without a second thought.

Perhaps this label was appropriate a number of years ago, but San Antonio is a different place. This city’s major sports potential deserves an opportunity to be reevaluated.

Though “small market” is commonly assumed to refer to television markets, population is a gauge that cannot be overlooked. Though its metropolitan area population ranks 25th in the nation, San Antonio is the seventh most populated city (by city limits) in the U.S. Among the top ten on this list, San Antonio is the only city with just one big-four (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) professional sports franchise. In fact, all of the six larger cities have at least three such franchises.

Many critics of this statistic cite the greater metropolitan area rankings that put areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth in high regard. What’s overlooked in this analysis is geographical reach of San Antonio sports. If you include Austin, Corpus Christi, the western range toward Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio becomes one of the largest markets in the country.

Now, the obvious small market argument points to the television market. Though TV ratings typically fail to include the aforementioned geographical reach, they are important to the potential franchise owner. Sure, San Antonio often can be found ranked in the 30-40 range for TV markets.

The group is called MLB In San Antonio; here’s their Facebook page. The main issue, which I have dealt with before, is the relative lack of population in the San Antonio-New Braunfels MSA. I am skeptical of the authors’ attempt to wave their hands at that by invoking Austin, Corpus Christi, and Del Rio in the San Antonio sports market. For an eight-games-a-year NFL schedule, I could buy that; the Texans have season ticket holders who live in San Antonio, though they’re hardly a big slice of their total fan base. For an 81-game MLB slate, however, I have my doubts. If you can show me that a non-trivial number of Spurs tickets are sold to folks from outside the greater SA metro area – not counting fans who travel specifically to see their hometown team on the road – then I might buy this calculation. But it’s always seemed like wishful thinking to me.

The other obstacle is that there currently isn’t a venue that MLB would accept for a team in San Antonio. Sorry, but the Alamodome won’t cut it as anything but a temporary site while the real stadium gets built. The days of stadium-sharing for MLB teams are over. I’m honestly not sure where you’d put a stadium for an MLB team in San Antonio. If you really want to lure Austinites to the games, putting it north on I-35 somewhere is the best bet, but that would make it less convenient for the masses of people who live west on I-10 or south of downtown, such as those Corpus and Del Rio folks. And we haven’t even talked about how such a stadium would be financed.

The main thing these folks have going for them is that there are two teams that could eventually want or need to relocate – the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays. The A’s would be a perfect fit, with the Astros and Rangers as division mates. Putting the Rays in San Antonio would probably mean something like shifting Cleveland to the AL East and putting the new Rays in the Central. Doable, but might require buy-in from Cleveland, since they’d be moving to a more difficult division. If either of those situations starts to heat up, then there could really be something to this. But don’t be surprised if San Antonio is little more than leverage. Having at least one suitable location that wants a franchise but doesn’t have one is always a useful thing for the league. I wish the fans in San Antonio good luck, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high.