"There are three kinds of lies," said American satirist Mark Twain quoting Benjamin Disraeli: "Lies, damned lies and statistics." For the third year in a row, statistics show that both violent crime and property crime have declined in Pittsburgh, conforming to the downward trend seen nationwide.
The FBI defines violent crime as homicide, aggravated assault, rape and robbery. According to the FBI's Unified Crime Report released Monday, there were 39 homicides in Pittsburgh in 2009, a steep decline from 72 the previous year -- a drop of more than 45 percent.
Overall, violent crime in Pittsburgh fell last year by 8 percent, with property crime down more than 6 percent. Aggravated assaults declined by almost 3 percent, robberies dropped 11 percent and rapes fell nearly 15 percent.
Overall, the numbers are positive until seen through the prism of neighborhoods caught in the daily grip of violent crime. For instance, Pittsburgh hasn't experienced a "marked decrease" in non-lethal shootings and stabbings, which show up in the aggravated assaults total, according to Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson. While everyone welcomes the drop in the homicide total, it accounts for less than 1 percent of all crimes committed in the city, he said.
Still, the overall numbers suggest that police and residents may be cooperating more on fighting crime. Building respect and trust are the first steps toward a safer community. When more and more citizens tell police what they know, they restake a claim to their neighborhood. And those are numbers you can take to the bank.