News and Tribune

January 9, 2013

Jeffersonville officials skeptical of 'dangerous' city ranking

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Rankings from a study recently released by NeighborhoodScout has Jeffersonville named as the 88th most dangerous city in America.

But Jeffersonville officials say they aren’t putting too much stock in the study’s rankings. Instead, they cite what they see as shortcomings with the data used to establish the ranking, and also point out that the data used to compile the rankings is not the most recent data available. In fact, officials say the most up-to-date data indicates what they see as a significant improvement in safety and policing issues throughout the city during the last year.



THE STUDY

NeighborhoodScout, and its parent company Location, Inc., is a Massachusetts-based geographic research and data mining company that uses location-based analysis to track demographics, school data and data and risk analysis information.

The criteria used for the ranking took cities with 25,000 or more people and based the ranking on the number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents. For the study’s purposes, violent crimes were defined as murder, forcible rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault. 

The report describes Jeffersonville as having, “one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes — from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 16,” the report said. “Within Indiana, more than 95 percent of the communities have a lower crime rate than Jeffersonville.”

“Jeffersonville has a combined rate of violent and property crime that is very high compared to other places of similar population size,” according to the report. “Regardless of whether Jeffersonville does well or poorly compared to all other cities and towns in the U.S. of all sizes, compared to places with a similar population, it fares badly. Few other communities of this size have a crime rate as high as Jeffersonville.”



THE RESPONSE

“It makes it sound like a place where you should be concerned walking down the street,” said Jeffersonville Police Department Assistant Chief Greg Sumler.  “That’s not the case at all. It’s never good, but I think you have to take it with a grain of salt,” he said of being included in the rankings.

“The study is based off of the 2011 uniform crime report,” said Sumler. “The uniform crime report is not mandatory. We submit to it because it assists us with federal grant money.”

In the research report description from NeighborhoodScout, it does state that information is is based off of 2011 year total data because it relies on final data that was released in November 2012.

Sumler explained that the uniform crime statistics are sent into and complied by the FBI, but it is not a requirement that all cities submit a uniform crime report — thus narrowing the pool of cities which could have been included in NeighborhoodScout’s research.

That is a factor Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore also pointed to when asked how he considers the city’s ranking on the list.

 “You don’t, because it doesn’t factor every city,” Moore said.

He added that the numbers in the study may also be misrepresentative because — especially in the case of larger cities — several different zip codes are lumped together to produce one set of statistics for a given city. But in the case of smaller cities, like Jeffersonville, there is only one zip code.

That practice could skew numbers, according to Moore, because some areas in a larger city that  have incidents of theft and violent crime far exceeding Jeffersonville’s won’t appear as high because they are linked together with zip codes from areas in the same city that have much lower incidences.

Sumler acknowledged another geographic hurdle: Being across the Ohio River from a major metropolitan area.

“You get some of the problem stemming from [Louisville],” he said, which could be a factor inflating some of Jeffersonville’s statistics. “People may think it’s a little easier to get away with things over here.”

Sumler added that many of the thefts and assault cases are linked to drug use, especially an increase related to prescription drugs.

“It’s a huge problem here,” Sumler admitted. “It’s easy for the drug market to run across the bridge.”



BETTER ALL THE TIME

Overall, Jeffersonville’s crime statistics have improved since 2011.

“Our [crime] numbers significantly dropped in 2012,” Sumler said. “In every category we have gone down.”

Moore agreed and said part of the reduction in crime is related to having more officers on the street.

“I would think you would see we’ve made significant improvements and you will see a reduction in crime in every category in 2012,” he said. “I attribute that to [putting] more officers on the street and [having] less behind a desk.”

He added that his administration’s involvement in neighborhood association meetings and increased neighborhood involvement have helped to improve Jeffersonville and reduce crime.

Sumler agreed and said he has also attended a number of the neighborhood meetings and rarely gets complaints about crime.

“The number one complaint we have is not crime, it’s speeders and people running stop signs,” he said.



Breakout:

Jeffersonville crime statistics by the numbers:

Murders:

2011- 3

2012- 2

Forcible rapes:

2011- 6

2012- 2

Robberies:

2011- 45

2012- 37

Aggravated assaults:

2011- 401

2012- 396

*Report provided by JPD