Special Report

Cities Where Crime Is Soaring

3. Columbus, IN
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 71.1%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2009): 108.0
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2013): 184.8
> Murders per 100,000 (2013): 5.0

The violent crime rate in Columbus increased by more than 70% between 2009 and 2013, the fourth highest spike in the country. However, the area is still relatively safe by many measures. Even after the increase, 184.8 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 residents, one of the lower rates in the nation and less than half the national violent crime rate of 367.9 per 100,000 Americans. In addition, the property crime rate in the Columbus metro area fell by 3%. While most cities with rising crime rates also tended to be relatively poor areas, Columbus had a median household income of $52,505, in line with the 2013 national figure.

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2. Medford, OR
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 80.4%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2009): 195.1
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2013): 352.0
> Murders per 100,000 (2013): 4.0

Nearly half of Southern Oregon residents believed crime to be the most important issue in the area, according to a survey in late 2013. In fact, crime was considered a worse problem than the area’s unemployment rate, which in Medford was still hovering around 10% in 2013. Increasingly, gangs have become a major presence in the area, using Interstate 5, which runs through Medford, to transport drugs. Between 2009 and 2013, reported violent crimes rose by 80%, and property crimes rose by nearly 58%, both the third largest increases in the country. Aggravated assault, which accounted for more than 70% of violent crimes in the Medford area in 2013, contributed significantly to the rise in violent crime. Between 2009 and 2013, the aggravated assault rate grew by nearly 70% to 252 per 100,000 residents, the eighth largest increase among all metro areas.

1. Bismarck, ND
> 5-year increase in violent crime rate: 92.4%
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2009): 206.6
> Violent crime per 100,000 (2013): 397.6
> Murders per 100,000 (2013): 3.0

While economic prosperity often helps to lower crime rates, this was not the case in Bismarck. Although wages in Bismarck have grown significantly since North Dakota’s oil boom began, the massive influx of residents may have also strained local police. The area’s unemployment rate of just 2.6% in 2013 was one of the lowest nationwide. And a typical household earned nearly $65,000 that year, one of the highest figures. Yet, crime has been on the rise. Drunk driving, which is not even part of the violent and property crime rates reviewed, rose 81% across the state between 2009 and 2013, and Bismarck has reported a similarly high incidence of drunk driving. In addition, while the murder rate declined between 2009 and 2013 in Bismarck, the aggravated assault rate more than doubled during those years, from 158.0 per 100,000 people in 2009 to 319.5 per 100,000 residents in 2013.

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Correction: Due to a data processing error, an earlier version of this article identified Monroe, MI and later Monroe, LA as areas where crime is soaring. In fact, neither Monroe, MI nor Monroe, LA should have been included. 

Additional correction: Due to a transcription error, an earlier version of this article noted that violent crime in the Bismark, ND metro area grew 160% between 2009 and 2013. In fact, the crime rate grew 92.4%. While this was correct in the Bismark summary, it was incorrect in the introduction.

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