The year in numbers

by Eric Ginsburg

Going up

Most of the trends with available data seem to point up, which is often bad news. New numbers at the beginning of the year showed an increased poverty rate, and reports throughout the year indicated that both Greensboro and Winston-Salem are towards the top of the list in terms of percentage of residents experiencing hunger or food insecurity.

The number of reported rapes and aggravated assaults in Greensboro rose from 2010, bringing the average weekly number of violent crimes up. Arrests in both categories are up slightly as well. Larceny shoplifting also increased since last year. Yet an increased number of these reported crimes doesn’t necessarily mean the amount of crime increased in those categories, but rather that the number of reports did.

Few people are excited about the price of gasoline, though the price per gallon has been declining. A year ago, area gas prices topped $3 per gallon and continued to rise steadily until they peaked around $3.87 in May. The average price in Greensboro now is $3.17, still higher than all of 2010 but the lowest it’s been since February.

Greensboro Urban Ministries announced the opening of a number of new winter emergency shelters this season to provide for various needs of the city’s homeless population, including a new one at the downtown YWCA specifically for women.

Guilford County high school graduation rates rose 2.4 percent to a record high 83.1 percent of students finishing within four years for the 2010- 2011 school year. The district’s strategic plan aims to reach 90 percent by 2012.

Overall turnout for the city council election was up from the last vote two years ago, with some precincts witnessing a dramatic increase in participation. The effect was a political overhaul on council, which was obvious even though elections were nonpartisan.

The amount of sales from ABC liquor stores rose more dramatically in Greensboro, High Point and Forsyth County than in Orange and Mecklenburg counties but significantly behind Wake County, which grew by 5.2 percent. For the Triad area, sales went up the most in High Point, 3.9 percent, followed by Greensboro with 2.6 percent and Forsyth with 2.1 percent.

Attendance rates at the Greensboro Historical Museum rose by a few thousand as well, climbing from 29,508 in 2010 to 33,194 this year.

Both numbers were calculated as of Nov. 30 of each year, so are equal comparisons but don’t represent the total number of annual visitors.

In addition to numbers increasing, new things have begun in the last 12 months. Occupy Greensboro and Winston-Salem were founded and continue to organize, an interracial Greensboro Faith Community Council was formed and CoHill Fest was launched in the fall. The NC Utilities Commission announced plans to create a new 984 area code, a new group was created to run the downtown farmers’ curb market and new businesses like the Snack Bar opened while rumors of a Trader Joe’s abounded yet again.

Going down

Depending on how you look at some of the numbers above, they could be seen as going down. If graduation rates are rising, dropout rates should be falling. If people are spending more on gas and alcohol than a year prior, they’re probably spending less somewhere else (unless income has risen) — maybe that’s where the increased reports of shoplifting factor in. If the number of left-leaning council members increased, the number of conservative members dwindled.

Property crimes, robbery, burglary and auto larceny all decreased, while the homicide and auto theft rates stayed the same. Both commercial and individual robbery rates fell, as did commercial and residential burglary.

The average number of monthly foreclosure filings dropped significantly in the last year in Guilford and Forsyth counties. There were 439 foreclosure filings in Guilford County in 2010, and according to the data available through November the average monthly rate fell to 313.

The drop was almost as dramatic in Forsyth County, where the average is now 256 per month, down from 310 properties with foreclosure filings. The number of filings does not directly correlate to the number of properties that were actually foreclosed, but is an indicator of the amount of proceedings.

Other things have decreased, or to put it more accurately, come to an end in 2011. The year will be remembered as the time when Osama bin Laden was killed and the war in Iraq officially ended. The year also marked the end of stateadministered funding to Planned Parenthood, although the decision is being challenged. Locally residents will recall the closing of a number of businesses, such as Simple Kneads, Rivas and Much and Heaven. Sports fans mourn the loss of UNCG’s wrestling team, and the more recent announcement that Andrews High School will scrap its junior varsity basketball team.