Tuesday, September 3, 2017 || By Jyllian Roach/Wednesday Journal || @maywoodnews
On Sept. 25, the FBI released its annual Uniform Crime Report (which details crime statistics in localities across the country) and it paints a picture, although imperfect, of the public safety landscape in Maywood and surrounding suburbs, including Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park. The information in this year’s report is from 2016, but also includes crime data going back five years.
The FBI has collected, published and archived crime data from state agencies in the United States since 1930. Legislators often reference these numbers while drafting new bills that impact crime. Chambers of Commerce and tourism agencies can also use the provided information to attract businesses and vacationers. And law enforcement agencies often use the data to calculate future budgets, determine resource allocation and to assess current operations.
It’s important to note that giving crime reporting data to the FBI is strictly voluntary, so this information provides only a snapshot on a broader scale. For example, the state of Illinois has 1,299 incorporated municipalities, but data for only 532 areas.
The trouble with statistics
Oftentimes, crime reporting information is used as a way to rank cities from safest to most dangerous. Websites like city-data.com and neighborhoodscout.com commonly create a crime index for people who are looking to relocate or start a business in a particular area.
While sites that do this do take into consideration factors like area population, there are two considerable blind spots.
The first is reliability in reporting. Sexual assault reporting has long been an issue with law enforcement, and the reported numbers compared to estimates for actual instances are dramatically different. This is true also for crimes that have become commonplace: if an owner had a bicycle stolen for the fourth time in a month, they may decide it is not worth the time and energy it takes to report it again.
The second is weight of crimes. The FBI does not release the data for ranking purposes, so the crimes come in two categories: violent offenses and property offences. A robbery and a murder are both violent offences, but the two might have radically different impacts on the safety of an area. For instance, if the convenience store at the corner is held up, you might avoid shopping there; but if your neighbor is murdered, you might consider moving.
A broad view
Of the 12 Midwestern region states, Illinois ranks at number three for crime reports, coming in with about 436 per 100,000 residents. Missouri takes the number one spot with 519 reports per 100,000 residents, and Minnesota comes in last with only 243 reports per capita.
This is a drastic jump for Illinois, which came in with 384 crimes reported per capita in 2015 and ranked at number six. Missouri was still in the top spot, and North Dakota just barely edged out Minnesota for fewest crimes reported with 239 per capita to the North Star State’s 243.
More broadly, the U.S. has seen an overall spike in crime reports. There were 1.2 million violent crimes reported in the country and 7.9 million property crime reports.
That’s an increase of about 4 percent for violent crimes compared to 2015, and a decrease of a little more than 1 percent for properties compared against the same year.
Maywood saw significant decreases in reported crime last year. In 2016, the village of just under 24,000 residents was home to only 165 violent crimes — murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, according to FBI data.
A total of 235 violent crimes were reported in 2015, making for a 35 percent decrease in reports.
Similarly, property crimes, which includes burglary; larceny; motor vehicle theft and arson, has decreased by about 10 percent overall.
Reported property crimes in Maywood have been steadily decreasing for some time. Since 2012, property crime reports have decreased 53 percent, going from a total 988 reports to 572 in 2016.
Violent crime reporting has had a bumpier road. Reporting for violent offenses increased in 2014 and 2015.
See the charts below for a comprehensive listing of FBI crime statistics for Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park: