A new suburban Walmart comes with tax revenue, crime, and economic development

How exactly does a new Walmart change a suburb? Here are at least a few factors to consider:

From its opening day to June 30, 2017, officers responded to 445 calls for service at Walmart, 166 of which resulted in arrests, according to records obtained by the Daily Herald. That means police were called to the store an average 1.2 times per day in its first year…

Walmart announced in 2012 its plans to close an East Dundee store and build the Carpentersville supercenter less than three miles away, prompting a lengthy legal battle between the company and the two villages. Walmart is expected to receive $4.3 million in tax increment financing funds ­– property taxes above a certain point in the area that would have gone to local governments — for the new store…

Though he declined to disclose specific sales numbers, Rooney said the new Carpentersville store has generated more sales tax revenue than East Dundee reported losing…

Already, the supercenter has significantly increased traffic and economic interest on the village’s east side, he said. Plans are moving forward for constructing a new five-tenant building and an O’Reilly Auto Parts on the store’s outlots.

To be honest, many suburbs cannot afford not to welcome Walmart into their communities. It is rare to find a user for a decent sized portion of land along a major road that will bring in so much tax revenue and provide jobs. The increase in crime can be chalked up as simply part of doing major retail business (I assume there may be bumps with other major retailers or shopping malls) and may not be a huge issue if it is largely isolated to the Walmart site.

In the long run, there are additional factors to consider including the local business climate with the behemoth Walmart in town (more competition for certain businesses), the opportunity cost of what else might have operated on that site, and the image of having a Walmart and related businesses. There is a reason more exclusive communities turn down big box stores and large strip mall areas. Furthermore, the fate of East Dundee could soon befell Carpentersville; if Walmart eventually wants a better deal or a bigger store, they can simply move and bring their benefits (and problems) to a different suburb.

As I suggested above, given these short-term and long-term outlooks, most American suburbs would choose to welcome Walmart. From whence the Walmart came does not matter while the tax receipts can be blinding to many.

Avoid public wi-fi

Here is a helpful reminder:

And finally, don’t forget for one minute that public Wi-Fi is dangerous.

This one illustration is humorous:

Evan, now 11, programmed fake Wi-Fi portals and took them to food courts shopping centers across the Austin, Texas, area and waited to see how many agreed to some pretty outrageous conditions. For the love of free internet access, they’d have to give their OK for the Wi-Fi owner to do things like “reading and responding to your emails, monitoring of input and/or output, and ‘bricking’ of your device.”

More than half of the shoppers shown these terms accepted them.

I like that this the article ties this issue to shopping malls. This might primarily be due to this time of year when plenty of people are out purchasing gifts. However, it also works because shopping malls are about as close as we get as Americans to public spaces. Where else can you regularly go for a safe environment to be around other people to do one of the ultimate American activities (consume)? While this article reminds us that the mall may not be so safe, is it odd that Americans tend to think of it as a safe place? And if malls want to keep attracting people (who then spend money), shouldn’t they do something about protecting their wi-fi?

I see an opportunity for either malls or security firms: ensuring that your public wi-fi experience is a good one.

Nashville police chief: crime fighting more about psychology, sociology

At a recent Nashville City Council meeting, the police chief explain what it takes to fight crime today:

After a recent spike in Nashville’s gun violence, Police Chief Steve Anderson and Health Director Bill Paul, appeared before the Metro Council Tuesday night. They discussed the numbers behind the shootings and how the city plans to combat them…

At the meeting, Chief Anderson outlined the statistics, but he also talked about the complexity of modern policing when it comes to gun violence, which disproportionally impacts poor minority residents.

“Police work has turned into more psychology and sociology than actually crime fighting. So that is where we all need to be,” Anderson said.

If only a broader set of civic leaders and the American public would pick up these ideas. To make such suggestions sometimes meets the counterargument that explanation like this excuse or condone the behavior. Not so: a better understanding of the social science behind crime should help communities alleviate the conditions that lead to crime rather than try to play whack-a-mole.

Going further with the police: does this mean Nashville police receive training based on psychology and sociology research? How does the force as a whole leverage this research? For example, the Chicago police force has been working with social network data to identify who is likely to be involved in or affected by crime.

At the least, the police and the public could follow a suggestion one of my colleagues made several years ago:

Our nation is only becoming more complex and diverse. We need police prepared to interact with complex and diverse people. Training in tactical procedures and weapon use, without a comparable ability for the police to think differently, learn quickly, and engage complexity is an invitation for more chaos.

Liberal arts graduates, if you want to make a difference in the world, consider this: become a cop.

 

A better interpretation of crime statistics for Chicago suburbs

The Daily Herald looks at recent crime figures in Chicago area suburbs. How should we interpret such numbers?

Violent crimes increased last year in half of 80 suburbs, says a new report by the FBI we’ve been analyzing.

Property crimes increased in more than 40 percent of the suburbs.

The Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s 2015 report shows Rosemont had a 94 percent increase in violent crimes, from 18 in 2014 to 35 in 2015. Most are assaults, but the category also includes rape, homicide and robbery. The village had a 29 percent increase in property crimes, which include arson, burglary and vehicle theft.

Other more populous suburbs had larger numbers of violent crimes in 2015, including 650 in Aurora, 261 in Elgin and 128 in Naperville.

Violent crimes remained largely flat in Palatine, with 36; Des Plaines, with 50; and Arlington Heights, with 42; while some communities saw crimes decrease across the board. Buffalo Grove saw an 80 percent decrease in violent crimes, to 2, and an 18 percent decrease in property crimes, to 234, while Prospect Heights saw a 33 percent decrease in violent crimes, to 14, and a 29 percent decrease in property crimes, to 112.

What I would take away:

  1. Looking across communities, there was not much change as half of the suburbs did not experience a rise in violent crimes and property crimes increased in less than half of the suburbs.
  2. It is interesting to note larger jumps in crime in certain communities. However, these should be interpreted in light of #1 and it would be more helpful to look at crime rates in these larger suburbs rather than just relying on occurrences.
  3. The last paragraph notes some major changes in other suburbs. But, some of these suburbs are smaller and a large decrease (80% in Buffalo Groves means a drop from 10 to 2) or increase could be more a function of not many crimes overall rather than indicate a larger trend.
  4. There is little indication of crime figures or rates over time which would help put the 2015 figure in better perspective.

All together, the headline “40 suburbs see spike in violent crimes in 2015” is not the most accurate. It may catch the attention of readers but neither the headline or article sufficiently discuss the statistics.

A McMansion as shorthand for the white, suburban privilege of Brock Turner

One blogger connects the case of Brock Turner to the suburban house to which he returned:

I googled the address. I don’t know why I did that– morbid curiosity always gets the better of me. I clicked the satellite image and squinted at the blurry photo of a roof. It’s just an ordinary upper-class McMansion, one of many, on a spastic squiggle of a street in the middle of a wealthy suburban development. The kind of place where people can have every luxury they want, unless what they want isn’t kitsch. True luxury that isn’t kitsch is reserved for the richer still, the astonishingly wealthy whose sons would not go to trial at all for rape– not for the Suburban-McMansion Rich whose sons serve three months if the press is bad enough.

A suburban McMansion fits the story a number of people have told regarding Turner’s actions and subsequent treatment by the criminal justice system. McMansion owners are typically white suburban people with money – not really rich, as this post suggests, but rich enough to expect others to be impressed with their standing (and home). In this narrative, the McMansion signals their posture to the world: we aren’t bad people and should be treated with respect.

It is tempting to link a house to a narrative in this way. On the other hand, what if Turner had returned to a more modest 1950s suburban ranch? Would we then see a connection to white conformity? Or, how about a early 20th century suburban bungalow that hints at the fastidious nature of whites who want to preserve some golden era? Or, would a pricey downtown condo conjure up images of high-flying urban nightlife? Since Turner is an unlikable figure to many, I suspect detractors could find all sorts of evidence from the consumer goods in his life – clothes, appearance, vehicle, shopping patterns, and home – to illustrate their dislike. Some of these objects may indeed be connected to white, middle/upper-middle class suburbanites.

This is the not the first time McMansions have been linked to immorality and crime. See, for example, the suggestions in Gone Girl. And such narratives have a much longer history in novels, films, and TV shows that in the postwar era loved to peel back the facade of suburban life to find its truly seemly underbelly. Whether such links and depictions are connected to demonstrable patterns of morality and criminality is another story…

 

The first publicly available “pre-crime” map

A think tank in Rio will soon maintain an online map predicting future crime:

With data from 42 police precincts on crimes committed between January 2010 to March 2016, CrimeRadar tracks some 14 million different crime events. But the app goes beyond mapping historical crimes: Through machine learning and predictive analysis, CrimeRadar will also map out future crime trends—like an open-gov pre-crime heat map…

Muggah says that Igarapé struck a deal with the Institute for Public Security, a state government agency, to build a public-facing mobile app that would show the distribution, intensity, and typologies of crimes across metro Rio. The researchers analyzed data centralized with the ISP along with data from Rio’s 190 system (like 911 in the U.S.) and created 812 categories for crimes. Those break down into capital crimes and violent crimes (like armed assault or intentional homicide), less-intense crimes (thefts, burglaries), and “victimless” crimes (loitering, prostitution).

“We built out a model that uses three data points—the time, the location, and the event—by discriminating in geospatial polygons using these three tiers,” Muggah says. “This algorithm creates a score, a risk score, based on those three data points, for every 250-meter-by-250-meter square unit in the state. You group some of the hundreds of thousands of scores for each sector into deciles to create a simplified, color-coded risk rating, on a scale of 1 to 10.”…

“We have over an 85 percent accuracy of mirroring risk against actual events. The beauty of machine learning is that this improves over time,” Muggah says. “The more data, the more information you feed into it, the higher-resolution your risk projections are going to be.”

Two things strike me as interesting:

  1. The claim that this is for the good of individuals who will be able to then make decisions. What about promoting the public good? This reminds me of apps in the United States that identified tougher neighborhoods but then received backlash.
  2. I’m not sure that 85% accuracy is good or bad. Obviously, such models strive to be much better than that. At the same time, making predictions (and with increasing levels of accuracy regarding times, locations, and actors) in a large city with many variable factors (particularly humans) is difficult. It will be interesting to see how accurate these models can be.

Quick Review: A Burglar’s Guide to the City

Joining the subjects of crime and architecture, A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh is an interesting if not repetitive read. Some thoughts about a book that would intrigue many general readers:

  1. Manaugh’s main argument is that criminals – burglars in particular – see buildings and cities in very different ways compared to architects. While architects assume people will use the correct entrances and the rest of the building as it is intended, burglars are always looking for unique ways in and out of buildings which leads to going through walls, roofs, and floors. Additionally, the locations of buildings can significantly affect burglary – such as the banks right next to highway on and off ramps in the Los Angeles area. In other words, these criminals are hackers of the built landscape.
  2. Manaugh talks to a number of law enforcement people and records some interesting insights. The best people he talks to are from Los Angeles as he travels with the helicopter crews and tries to see the city from above as well as spot criminal activity from this vantage points.
  3. Oddly, Manaugh doesn’t spend much time talking to architects. Do they think they should pay more attention to possible criminal behavior? Do they need to change how they think about buildings? He does talk to one creator of safe rooms.
  4. Overall, Manaugh seems a bit in awe of the burglars who can see the landscape in the ways that no one else can. He basically admits this at the beginning of the last chapter – he likes heist films – and admits at a few points that the vast majority of burglaries are connected to drugs.

This is an interesting read and those who like examples of daring criminals – such as those bank robbers who build tunnels under bank vaults, emerge from the floor, and escape through water tunnels on 4x4s – will find plenty to like. Yet, Manaugh doesn’t go far enough to connecting of how architects and city planners should respond or even if they should – perhaps this is just collateral damage of living in American cities today.