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New Bedford crime – perception versus reality


There’s an annoying constant that you’ll find locally on social media; anytime someone reports crime on Facebook, someone will mock it with “crime is down” in the comment section. This mockery is in reference to FBI statistics reporting that overall crime in New Bedford is down 31% from 2014-2016. The allegations of New Bedford’s mayor and police force manipulating data is the most popular conspiracy. Another unfounded theory is that police are putting crimes in different categories than in previous years. Another theory is people aren’t reporting crime as much – as if they were eagerly reporting crime in the past.

Yes, homicides are up from three in 2016 to eight in 2017, but this doesn’t mean crime is up overall. And after two years of crime dropping, can we realistically expect it is continue? 99.99% of New Bedford residents aren’t murdered in New Bedford – most of the residents are impacted by smaller crimes like larceny, theft, vandalism and to a lesser extend assault, car thefts, sexual assaults and other violent crime. Also, the common themes of homicides in New Bedford pertain to domestic violence or are drug related. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone randomly murdered in New Bedford, but I digress.

Yes, it is possible, if not even likely after two years of declines, that overall crime is up in New Bedford for 2017 over 2016. By how much, we won’t know until next year. But why do so many on social media act like New Bedford is just as bad as Chicago? The answer is simple, the rise of social media pages and groups with the primary focus of reporting New Bedford crime.

While New Bedford Guide has reduced its daily New Bedford crime reporting, other traditional media like WBSM and Standard Times have either increased their New Bedford crime reporting or continued to steadily report it. These are the media that have been around the longest in the area. Pages like New Bedford Live and groups like New Bedford Neighborhood Watch 1, New Bedford Neighborhood Watch 2 and New Bedford/Fall River community news and scans have popped up over the past few years and almost exclusively report crime. That makes seven local media accounts with large following reporting crime daily, some more than others, through their social media accounts – mostly through Facebook.

If you are part of all or even some of these pages/groups, you are likely to see dozens of crime posts in your news feeds every day without fail. Sadly, crime sells and media is simply feeding what the population wants. New Bedford residents reward crime posts with engagement far more than any other posts on social media.

Let’s take a 24-hour period on Facebook from the time of this writing, 7pm on Monday, November 13th. Here are the crimes posted by the 7 pages going back 24 hours:

New Bedford Guide: 2
SouthCoastToday: 8
New Bedford Live: 3
New Bedford Neighborhood Watch 1: 14
New Bedford Neighborhood Watch 2: ?
new bedford/fall river community news and scans: 3

I’m not a member of New Bedford Neighborhood Watch 2 any longer, but let’s use 5 for their New Bedford crime posts. That would bring the total to 40 new posts in a 24 hour period. Keep in mind most news organizations have a skeleton crew on Sunday nights, and it wouldn’t be uncommon to see 80-100 combined posts from all seven of these groups/pages on a week day. This number also doesn’t count that when you comment on an older post in Facebook groups, the post is immediately bumped to the top. Being conservative, let’s say 50 crime posts are produced daily by these seven pages/groups on average, that would make 350 New Bedford crime posts per week or 1,400 every month. That’s 16,800 crime posts per year. That’s a lot of crime reporting injected into your daily life over the months and years.

New Bedford residents are split on whether this increased of crime reporting is a good or bad thing – some like to be informed on what’s going on with all crime, others feel the spike in crime reporting puts New Bedford in an unfair negative light which kills tourism and makes it hard to recruit business. Arguing these points is not what this article is about. My goal is to simply inform readers on why crime could be down or up slightly, but you’d think New Bedford was suffering a crime wave the past few years. Even if crime does turn out to be on the rise officially, it won’t be at the level that is perceived. New Bedford residents are simply seeing a spike in reporting – all the major and sometimes minor crime flowing in with video and photos the capture and keep your attention.

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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