Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Norristown's Crime Stereotype

I was awakened by gunshots this morning. I imagine for many, if not the majority of Norristonians, hearing gunshots isn't a new experience.

When asked this week what could be done about Norristown's high crime rate, Council President Gary Simpson wrote on Facebook "What we are experiencing is happening throughout the entire country and is not just limited to Norristown. We have a town which has become increasingly more like a larger city because of its more urban (characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it) area makeup."

I'm not sure what he meant by "vast human features." When I think of human features, I think of faces, and I don't think our faces are any larger than the general population of the world. But let's look at the rest of his statement.

If you Google "Norristown, PA crime rate," lots of sites come up. (They are all based on 2011 information. Apparently 2012 data hasn't been officially released yet.) Here are some of the links if you want to go look:


These sites also have statistics for all of Pennsylvania and sometimes the whole country. The US government census site also has national data, so it's pretty easy to do a comparison. The results?

Our murder rate is more than double the national average, as is our assault rate. Robberies are more than 4 times that of the total US. If we look at just cities, in the City Data Crime Index, Norristown tops the national average by more than 140 points (though, at least we're not in the worst 100). We're far above cities in PA with comparable populations, like Wilkes Barre and Penns Hills.. Even Scranton, with double our population, has a much lower crime rate than we have. You have a 1 in 94 chance of becoming a crime victim in Norristown. The PA average is 1 in 282.

The thing is, our crime rate HAS come down. In 2006 it was something like 400 points over the national average. We had a lower population density then. 40 years ago, when the population was higher by nearly 25%, we had a much lower crime rate. So, sorry, Mr. Simpson, they aren't related.

In the same Facebook conversation, Mr. Simpson said "I do not believe that we can police our way out of the problem." According to the Municipal website, we only have 55 police offers, or about 1.6 for every 1,000 persons in town. The PA average is 2.71 officers per 1,000 residents. Scranton  has about 2.1 per 1,000. The statistics prove that the more officers you have per 1,000 people, the lower your crime rate will be. I'm not saying police are the only solution, but a few extra officers would surely help.

I get very tired of people blaming the town for the problem, as if crime is part of our geographic identity. It's like racial profiling--they assume Norristown will have high crime simply because we're Norristown. Mostly you hear this from non-residents, or residents who haven't been here long. They imply that nothing can be done. That's just how Norristown IS.

Never before have I heard this stereotype voiced by a councilman. Safety and security ought to be council's highest priority. We shouldn't be hearing that Norristown's just like every other big city with crime problems. In fact, we shouldn't be hearing Norristown being stereotyped by council at all. We're a unique community with a lot of assets. We need a council who knows it, who'll stick up for us, and who'll strive to make things better.


  1. Can you say "DENIAL"? If you don't publically acknowledge something, then you don't have to take any action to fix it. Mr. Simpson is doing just that. Sadly, sticking your head in the sand is easier. We need strong leaders that don't believe that crime is the "norm". We are an urban area, and we are having problems. Our Council needs to be a part of finding the way a way to lead criminals and drug dealers out of this town. This would be a huge step in resolving our violent crimes. The sound of gunshots should not be common.

  2. I don't know how they import more and more criminals and expect the crime rate to drop. I forget what year it was when they imported all the Cuban criminals who had been deported from Cuba to live in the U.S. and they dumped mny of them in Norristown. The crime rate went up and then the let a large number oF NSH residents into Norristown for community living, crime rate went up. When they dumped so many from Graterford the crime rate went up in Norristown. I don't think many of our current State local and County elected officers are aware of how many times we have gone through this dumping process. Never a pretty thing. Wake up residents Continue to stay on top of Pennrose Projects because just as soon as they think we've forgotten they will sneak it right in

  3. I'm shocked at this point....because on the one hand they are actively trying to raise the population and call us a city. Then, say Oh any problems we have are cool cause all city's are like that. I have a problem with this. We do not want "their" idea of how Ntown should be, a city with all the problems that go with that. And all these large housing projects are slated to move in more and more people. Why? What is the end game? My mind is racing, and I'm now at a loss for words, this is a real eye opener. All I can say is that Norristown Diary needs a larger platform to get the word out. Something is not right here, and as we know things start at the top.....peace

  4. "human features"... Wow, did you hear a lot of dogs barking when he said that?