Data Sense: Local crime rate declines in accordance with national trends

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Recent data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting program indicates that local crime is on the decline.

The FBI has been collecting, publishing and archiving crime statistics as part of the UCR program since 1929.The data is produced from the information received from more than 18,000 city, university, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies voluntarily participating in the program. The UCR data is the most comprehensive source for detailed crime statistics.

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Brandon Owens

Data Sense

This monthly column is written by Yampa Valley Data Partners. It publishes on the first Sunday of the month in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Read more columns here.

The 2012 UCR report provides insight into local crime. Overall, it indicates that the crime rate in Steamboat Springs has fallen during the past five years.

According to the data, there were 35 violent crimes against people reported in Steamboat Springs in 2012. Given the reported population level of 12,116, that works out to a violent crime rate of 0.3 percent. During this same period, 322 crimes against property were reported. This works out to a property crime rate of 2.7 percent. The rate of violent crime in Steamboat Springs is well below the national average of 3.9 percent, and the property crime rate is just below the national average of 2.9 percent as reported in the 2012 UCR report.

A comparison of the 2012 UCR data with the 2007 data set indicates that crime rates have fallen during the past five years. In 2007, 58 violent crimes were report in Steamboat Springs. This level of violent crime was associated with a 0.5 percent crime rate. Reported property crimes in 2007 were 526 and the associated rate of property crime was 3.8 percent. Thus, in the last five years, the local violent crime rate dropped by 0.2 percent and the property crime rate dropped by 1.1 percent.

The local drop in crime actually mirrors the national trend. Since 2007, the national violent crime rate dropped by 0.5 percent to 0.4 percent and the property crime rate dropped from 3.3 percent to 2.9 percent. Criminologists are debating the sources behind the national decline in the crime rate, but no single cause has been identified.

In addition to the standard summary UCR data, the FBI has another more detailed crime reporting system known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System. NIBRS captures more information than the UCR data because it records all of the criminal offenses for each crime incident whereas the standard UCR data reflect only the most serious offense for any single incident.

The NIBRS data is consistent with the UCR data, but shows higher crime rates. A total of 893 offenses were reported in the 2012 NIBRS. Two-thirds of the reported offenses were crimes against property, the balance were either crimes against persons or drug offenses.

Brandon Owens is an independent contractor for Yampa Valley Data Partners.

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