PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, APRIL 1, 2013) — We will pass on the obvious temptation offered by April Fool’s Day. In one way or another, we are all fools and in our own way wise men. We are, as Kris Kristofferson once wrote in a lyric, “walking contradictions, partly truth, partly fiction.”

It would probably pass easily for an April Fool’s story, however, the news that made the wires last week about the continued drop in the national crime rate. The feds released new statistics, and pundits throughout the land were trying to explain the meaning.

It the reported drop in crime what it seems?

You may have seen a wire story in the Boring Broadsheet on the state’s dropping rate: The headline read: “Mass. spends more on prisons, as crime rates drop.” Does one cause the other? Also, how much safer do you feel when you have to go to downtown Pittsfield after 5 p.m.? Questions to be pondered.

Rates are Down for a Number of Reasons

Nationally, there are a number of reasons why the measured and measurable crime rate is going down. These include:

* The Massachusetts solution — Impose unrealistic sentences for minor crime and throw everybody you can into the hoosegow. “Correction officer” is one of the growth industries of this politically lopsided state. Nationally, to the country’s disgrace, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, almost 750 prisoners per 100,000 population. At the end of 2010, U.S. prisons housed 2,266,800 people, with Hispanics and blacks disproportionately represented.

* More cops — Police states tend to have relatively little crime. THE PLANET doesn’t make the claim that we are at that point, although the indicators nationally are moving in that direction by the freedom- impinging excesses of Patriot Act, the growing behemoth of the Department of Homeland Security, and the mistaken notion that more cops equals more peace of mind.

* New technology —  Security cameras everywhere, and so are computers.

* Data — Police work relies more and more on databases, information, and other forms of technology. It’s similar to what has happened in major league coaching ranks: Hot: Employing data. Cold: Playing hunches.

* Age — Crime is mostly committed by young people, and America is graying.

* Preventive crime fighting — As the L.A. Times puts it in an article by Matt Pearce, “More abortions mean fewer dadless troublemakers.”

Here’s another question: Does a falling crime rate mean that actual crime occurs at a statistically lesser frequency? Most likely, the answer is no. The crime rate can only include the “measurable.” Many crimes are committed that are never solved. How many breaks-in, petty thefts, incidents of shoplifting, and even undetected murders and rapes are there?

‘Statistics are Notoriously Slippery’

“Statistics are notoriously slippery, but the figures that suggest that violence has been disappearing in the United States contain a blind spot so large that to cite them uncritically, as the major papers do, is to collude in an epic con,” Christopher Glazek wrote in a recent issue of n+1 magazine. “Uncounted in the official tallies are the hundreds of thousands of crimes that take place in the country’s prison system, a vast and growing residential network whose forsaken tenants increasingly bear the brunt of America’s propensity for anger and violence. … Crime has not fallen in the United States. It’s been shifted.”

Glazer points out that statistically safer cities, as measured by the crime rate, come at a high price: It uproots non-violent offenders (think teens sent to prison for years because of marijuana) from their homes and families. It throws them in prison. There, they learn how to be criminals. If they try to live productive lives, they face the tough task of trying to find a job with a prison record coloring scarlett the “A” on their resumes.

As Glazer points out, “You cannot relieve the suffering of the prison population without increasing safety risks for the rest of us.”

The L.A. Times piece also brings out a point that can apply to most every city in the country, including Pittsfield:  “At the same time, America’s police forces have become increasingly militarized. In many cities, public safety budgets are often the last to be cut, despite police spending increasing 445% since 1982, according to the Justice Policy Institute.”

How Safe Is Pittsfield? Not Very

According to the website, Pittsfield’s crime index is 21 on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being downtown Kabul after midnight and 100 being the safest. In other words, 79% of all the cities in America are measurably safer than Pittsfield. Crime occurs at a rate 50% higher in Pittsfield than in the national median. In Massachusetts, the chances of becoming a crime victim are 1 in 233. In Pittsfield, it’s 1 in 165. Moreover, Pittsfield’s crime rate per 1,000 population is double that of the country on average. Compared to similar numbers for American cities, Pittsfield’s murder rate is nearly double, rape occurs 150% times the national average, and assault nearly twice as much. Only on robbery and motor vehicle theft does Pittsfield do slightly better than the national average.

According the neighborhoodscout‘s analysis of where crime occurs in Pittsfield, these are the top 10  neighborhoods ranked according to crime, with 1 being the safest and 10 being the least safe:

1. Dalton Avenue / Connecticut Avenue — SAFEST

2. Coltsville / Lakewood (tie)

3. West Pittsfield

4. Camp Stevenson area

5. Williams Street / Holmes Road

6. Victory Hill

7. South Mountain Road / Barker Road

8. Lakeview Terrace

9. City Center

10. Onota Street / Linden Street. — MOST DANGEROUS

As you can see, downtown at #9 doesn’t fare well. Another way of putting it is that you are safer in the other 80% of the city than you are in downtown providing you are not on the west side (Onota Street / Linden Street). Crime per square mile, property crime rate, violent crime, and neighborhood crime are all higher downtown than in the areas in 1-8. What does Downtown Pittsfield Inc. have to say about that, we wonder? What does Mayor Bianchi, the Chamber of Commerce, and the rest of the “rah-rah” gang have to say? For their part, downtown merchants feel forgotten.

Incidentally, the safest community in the state of Massachusetts is Monterey, with zero crimes reported for 2012 among its population of 963.

According to,

Pittsfield crime statistics report an overall upward trend in crime based on data from 10 years with violent crime increasing and property crime decreasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Pittsfield for 2013 is expected to be higher than in 2010.The city violent crime rate for Pittsfield in 2010 was higher than thenational violent crime rate average by 67.08%.In 2010 the city violent crime rate in Pittsfield was higher than the violent crime rate in Massachusetts by 44.53% and the city property crime rate in Pittsfield was higher than the property crime rate in Massachusetts by 20.79%.

‘The Imperfect Storm’

Combine this information with the poor performance of the city’s public schools, add the toxins left behind by General Electric, with a dash of political ineptness thrown in, and you have the imperfect storm of civic demoralization and its aftermath: apathy.

If this year’s municipal election gives us more of the same old same old, the goose will get cooked even more.

Is there a champion, a rescuer, a superhero for Pittsfield hiding out for the moment? A jousting knight on a white steed? A candidate who has never been a “politician” and who loathes the term? Someone not afraid to address the intractable problems on behalf of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski? Someone with private sector experience and inclinations, deep intelligence, and decisiveness, who loathes both factions of the current political klans (and their innumerable tributaries) that currently have the city under their sore thumbs?

Could be.


 “What does not change / is the will to change.”Charles Olson




  1. outfox
    April 1, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    I was amused this weekend to hear that the world’s smallest country has the world’s highest crime rate—Vatican City.

  2. C. J.
    April 1, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    Speaking of GE and PCBs; Happy 2 year anniversary to Corydon Thurston as the full time CEO of PEDA. Thanks for all the development and new job creation. Your efforts are appreciated by Jim Ruberto, who appointed you and Dan Bianchi who continues to show confidence and agreement with Ruberto’s decisions.

  3. Shakes His Head
    April 1, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    nice read Dan.

  4. FloggingMolly
    April 1, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Wait didn’t you catch the breaking news????? The William Stanley Business Park will host the long awaited Carousel. Just posted by Go Pittsfield on Facebook. Sure hope that is an Aprils Fool Prank cause otherwise its maybe the biggest joke to come along for that piece of property yet.

  5. Ron Kitterman
    April 1, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    I heard our esteemed Representative to Massachusetts Great and General Court on the radio today from the 3’rd Berkshire District, apparently the only possible way out of this mess is to make more investments in our community. The email and letters indicate strongly that this is what we the people want, and if you do want to advocate strongly for your program or advocacy to a program you must make suggestions where the cuts would be made to another to fund that program. This being the April fool’s day program was not a joke to my understanding.

  6. Paul Smith
    April 1, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    TFB, as a bought and paid for captive of the Dem bosses, of course wants to “invest” more in “the community.” That’s code for “keep taxing the hell out of the people.” Someone, somewhere: Give us a break.

  7. ordinary citizen
    April 1, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    i think the carousel thing was an April fools joke

    • Joe Blow
      April 1, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      Wow…heard ya the first time.

      • Twist
        April 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

        ha ha ha

  8. dusty
    April 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    As soon as Bianchi announces his new tax hike you will see the new mayoral candidates come forward. And they will run on the platform of “no new taxes”…just like Ruberto did before he took his vacuum cleaner to our bank accounts.

    • danvalenti
      April 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      Yes, but there will only be one that you can trust.
      That will be the one to make an iron-clad promise to lower the cost of running the city and lower the property tax rate for businesses and homeowners. It CAN be done. In fact, it must be done, or Pittsfield is toast.

    • Kate Dempsey
      April 1, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

      Or as Geroge H. W. Bush taught us “know new taxes.”

      • danvalenti
        April 1, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

        Yeah, “Read my gyps.”

  9. Jonathan Melle
    April 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    In response to Dan Valenti’s posting about crime in Pittsfield, I always felt that there were 2 Pittsfields. One for the rich and middle class, and another for the working class and poor. The latter makes up a majority of the population in Pittsfield. Teen pregnancies and welfare caseloads double the statewide average in Pittsfield. Over half of the students in Pittsfield schools are on free lunch. There are no jobs in Pittsfield. Berkshire County is the #1 place in Massachusetts for job loss. The Pittsfield politicians are all corrupt. Pittsfield is run by the Good Old Boy network. Ordinary citizens are intimidated from participating in state and local government in Pittsfield. Pittsfield has so many people with social problems. It is a messed up community. GE left behind PCBs toxic waste cancer-causing pollution in Pittsfield. Dan Valenti points all of this out in his blog. I wouldn’t feel safe walking around North Street in Pittsfield after dark. The city government has spent many millions of dollars revitalizing North Street and the downtown area. For what? The downtown area, especially North Street, is still a place most people avoid, especially at night. Pittsfield has problems with crime, substance abuse, and even gangs. The question any community would ask is, “Would a middle class family want to move here?” In Pittsfield, the answer is, “No”.

  10. ShirleyKnutz
    April 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Someone was unhappy with your post, they just robbed the Pittsfield Co-op on Dalton Ave.

    • danvalenti
      April 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

      Life imitating art.

  11. ambrose
    April 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Interesting to read about the safest/unsafest places in Pittsfield. Even more intersting is that there was a bank robbery today on Dalton Ave., a mere stones throw from the end of Connecticut Ave.

  12. Scott
    April 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Personally I am disgusted at the rate of crime towards woman in this city every day we read about some assault on a woman by some drug soaked drunk loser who was never taught how to act towards woman and children. We should be raising our woman up not keeping them down. More woman should take the appropriate course to obtain a firearm for their home. I’d much rather read about some dirt bag being shot for trying to rape a woman than the stories that are so common lately. Truly disgusted. I don’t get the same vibe when I go downtown but I do see the punks sporting red and blue and I do see the druggies, junkies and deadbeats. Got cut off in big y by an overweight being on a welfare Cadillac that had bags of soda and angle food cake as the only groceries I thought to myself Jesus no wonder there is a disconnect between health and what we’re eating maybe that’s what is making everyone so miserable. Notice property break ins go down as gun sales go up…

  13. Giacometti
    April 2, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Pittsfield’s Neighborhood Strategy Zone that Community Development Block Grants ( CDBG ) are targeted to help is the neughborhood you target as the worse areas as far as crime is concerned in Pittsfield. That being said the City of Pittsfield is making an effort to attack crime with federal funds in a concentrated manner. The only problem is that there are two Pittsfields…one between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and another between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.During the night shift crack whores and gang bangers rule the streets
    ….no matter what part of the City you are in. They even have their own web sites ” Pittsfields 3oys ” and “Pittsfields Whores”. So now our own Gang Bangers and girls have gone high tech.

    • Scott
      April 2, 2013 at 3:45 am #

      I don’t buy it neighborhoods that re rampant with crime are that way because the people who live there allow them to be. Whether it’s fear or joint venture.

      On the militarization of police did anyone see the nice Hummer or whatever they had on display at the courthouse? I thought it was a military vehicle until I saw the PPD tags on the side. I felt like the Eagles article was critical of corrections spending with their article but some say that’s why crime is going down but I agree with Dan it all an illusion. Yeah drug dealers are getting heavy sentences while violent offenders are released everyday. Are we willing to continue to put up with our woman being victimized???

  14. joetaxpayer
    April 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Dan must disagree with you that they our throwing everyone in jail. One young man was busted with 32 pounds another woman held up a bank, neither received jail time. Also Berkshire County House of Correction is no where near capicity. Let’s fill that joint.