What Does a Credit Report Have to Do With Fighting Crime?

Who's counting: Got a head for numbers? Recently laid off from your job in financial services? Well, Buzz has a hot job tip for you: Become a Dallas cop.

By the time you read this, the city council likely will have considered an amendment to the city code that will give cops a new tool to combat crime in apartment complexes. That tool is math.

The new rule will require the police to calculate the average "community per capita crime index" for multi-tenant rental properties with 10 or more apartments. They then will derive the properties' standard deviation from the average and use the two numbers to derive a "crime risk threshold."

Don't get confused yet. We're just getting started.

Police then will calculate the index for each apartment complex, estimate the barometric pressure and wind speed, liberally apply the blood of a beheaded chicken and voilà! Tom Leppert's facial tic is healed!

No, wait. What really happens is the owners of any particularly crime-ridden apartment complex will have to pay $250 and send managers around to attend some neighborhood watch meetings, get their properties up to code and add security lights and fencing. (By using averages and standard deviation, the city guarantees that some percentage of properties will always be considered "crime-ridden" compared with others.)

This fancy math is all part of a new style of policing that allows cops to target troublesome neighborhoods with numeric precision. Apparently, the old ways—such as following the trail of blood to the body in the parking lot—just aren't working anymore.

Here's a troubling part of the new rules: Apartment complexes that cross the "crime risk threshold" will be required to get copies of the credit reports of adults who apply for an apartment and provide the reports to the cops on demand. Credit reports? So, if you're poor, and you want a cheap apartment, your friendly neighborhood copper might get a peek at your credit card bill.

Kathy Carlton, director of government affairs for the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, says her group worked with the city on developing the new ordinance. Property owners aren't exactly thrilled with it, she admits, but it could have been worse. At least, she says, the police have assured owners that they won't be looking at any individual's credit record. They just want to encourage property managers to collect them, but they won't peek, they swear.

Uh-huh. Right. Give the government a window into your privacy, but rest assured they won't abuse it. Anyone need a calculator to figure the odds of that one working out?

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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