The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports crime in New Bedford is down again. According to the latest FBI statistics, the overall crime rate has tumbled by 39 percent since 2016. The FBI reports property crime was down by 21 percent, and violent crime decreased by five percent between 2019 and 2020. All of this is welcome news, of course, and falls in line with national trends – but how reliable is the information?

A New Bedford Police Department release touts a sharp decline in reported burglaries, larceny, robbery, and rape. There was one fewer homicide in 2020 – four – than in 2019. The NBPD reported the only increase recorded was for aggravated assault, up by 14 percent last year.

Mayor Jon Mitchell and former Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro released statistics last March indicating that crime had declined in New Bedford. Then we learned about the "hierarchy rule." You remember the hierarchy rule, don't you?

Get our free mobile app

Police Union President Hank Turgeon questioned why the number of crimes committed was much higher in the budget request submitted to the New Bedford City Council by Mitchell and Cordeiro than the number of crimes reported out later by the FBI when claiming that the crime rate was shrinking. Turgeon questioned whether the numbers were inflated to support the budget request or deflated later for public relations purposes. Ah, but alas, it was the hierarchy rule that accounted for the difference.

The official line from Cordeiro was that the FBI used something called the hierarchy rule when calculating local crime rates. It works this way: if an individual commits multiple offenses in a singular incident, the FBI counts only the most serious offense and lumps the others in with it, and it counts as only one crime. How is that for fuzzy math? The hierarchy rule. Not as much fun as the tuck rule, but there it is.

I want to believe that crime is falling as fast as Joe Biden's poll numbers, but the ol' hierarchy rule calls into question anything these politicians say about crime stats.

From your vantage point, does it appear as though crime in New Bedford is on the decline, or are you skeptical, too?

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Downtown New Bedford Then and Now

The development of Downtown New Bedford has happened slowly and steadily. It's not something that happened overnight, but New Bedford has changed quite a bit over the past 10 or so years. Here's a look at then and now.