Special Report

Cities Where Crime Is Plummeting

Lexington, Kentucky
Source: Thinkstock

5. Lexington-Fayette, KY
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -32.6%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 380.3 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 256.3 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 20

Lexington Police Commander Gregg Jones told reporters in 2015 that in response to violent crime, the department always directs “additional internal resources to areas where there’s been an uptick in criminal activity” to both investigate ongoing cases and prevent future crimes. It seems that efforts to curb criminal activity may have had some effect as the Lexington-Fayette violent crime rate fell from 380 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2011 to 256 per 100,000 in 2015. While the number of homicides reported in the metro area rose from 17 to 20 over the same period, there were 30 fewer robberies, and the number of aggravated assaults fell from 1,013 in 2011 to 448 in 2015.

Columbus, Indiana 2
Source: Thinkstock

4. Columbus, IN
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -33.5%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 163.2 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 108.6 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 1

The number of violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in the Columbus metro area fell from 163 in 2011 to just 109 in 2015, nearly the best improvement of any U.S. city. The crime rate dropped in every category of violent crime, as well as every category all property crimes. The five-year 33.5% decrease in the area’s violent crime rate, which was roughly 10 times the national figure, was likely a welcome relief after the spike in the area’s violent crime between 2009 and 2013. Columbus is one of the safest metro areas nationwide.Just 20 robberies, 40 aggravated assaults, and one murder were reported in 2015. Adjusted for the city’s 81,000 person population, Columbus has the sixth lowest violent crime rate nationwide among major metropolitan areas.

Wenatchee, Washington
Source: Jennifer Gottwald / Wikimedia Commons

3. Wenatchee, WA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -36.2%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 157.2 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 100.3 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 1

Between 2011 and 2015, the Wenatchee violent crime rate fell from 157 incidents per 100,000 residents to just 100 per 100,000 residents. The 36.2% improvement was nearly 10 times as large as the drop in the national crime rate, which fell from 387 incidents per 100,000 Americans to 373 per 100,000 over the same period. Research has shown that major impediments to curbing crime are poverty, unemployment, and income segregation. While the typical household in the Wenatchee metro is about as wealthy a typical American household, income is distributed more evenly across Wenatchee residents than nearly any other city. Additionally, just 2.8% of Wenatchee’s workforce is unemployed, a fraction of the 4.7% national unemployment rate.

Ames, Iowa
Source: Tim Kiser / Wikimedia Commons

2. Ames, IA
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -42.9%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 277.7 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 158.5 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 1

Roughly 100 fewer violent crimes were reported in the Ames metro area in 2015 than in 2011, even as the population grew at one of the fastest rates of any metropolitan area. Adjusted for population, violent crime fell from 278 incidents per 100,000 residents to just 159 per 100,000 residents. The 42.9% decline is the second largest improvement of any metro area. Today, Ames has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. According to the Ames Police Department, only one homicide has been reported in the last five years, and it was ruled an act of self-defense.

Improvements to the violent crime rate may be partially credited to preventative measures taken by Ames authorities. A few of these approaches include training landlords to curb criminal behavior, meeting with students at Iowa State University, and assigning resource officers to neighborhoods in the city.

mountain road snow winter trees, Bend, Oregon
Source: Thinkstock

1. Bend-Redmond, OR
> 5-yr. violent crime rate change: -46.6%
> 2011 violent crime rate: 331.2 per 100,000
> 2015 violent crime rate: 176.8 per 100,000
> Murders in 2015: 3

The violent crime rate in the Bend-Redmond metro area fell between 2011 and 2015, from 331 incidents per 100,000 residents to 177 incidents per 100,000 residents. The 47% drop was the largest improvement in crime of any major metro area over the past five years. Today, crime levels in the metro area has returned to pre-recession levels. Bend experienced one of the sharpest spikes in crime during the recession, with the violent crime rate increasing 50% between 2007 and 2011 as the area’s economy weakened. In response to the rising crime, the City of Bend Police Department implemented a new records management system and hired a crime analyst to help map areas where criminal activity is most likely to occur. Five years later, Bend is even safer than it was before the rise in crime. Despite a rapidly expanding population, there were 33 fewer violent crimes reported in the Bend metro area in 2015 than in 2007.

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