FBI data suggests rash of thefts boosted crime in SH in 2018

Sean C. Morgan

Based on crimes tracked by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the crime rate in Sweet Home increased substantially from 2017 to 2018, thanks to a big bump in the number of theft reports.

Based on data in the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Sweet Home saw a decrease in violent crime, from 2.2 per 1,000 population to 1.6 per 1,000, but an increase in property crimes from 40.3 per 1,000 to 51.3 per 1,000.

Nationwide, the violent crime rate decreased 3.3 percent, to 3.7 crimes per 1,000 – about 1.2 million crimes. The rate of property crime decreased as well, by 6.3 percent, to 22 per 1,000 – about 7.2 million crimes.

Statewide, the violent crime rate increased by 2.9 percent to 2.9 crimes per 1,000 population. The property crime rate declined by 1 percent, to 28.9 per 1,000.

Communities in Oregon of similar size to Sweet Home, with populations in the 9,000 to 11,000 range, averaged a total crime rate of 38.3 crimes per 1,000 population. At the high end, Lincoln City had 109.6 crime reports per 1,000 population. At the low end was Monmouth, with 15 crimes per 1,000.

In Oregon’s largest cities, those with populations larger than 100,000, Portland had a violent crime rate of 5.2 per 1,000, 54.6 property crimes per 1,000 and a total rate of 59.8 per 1,000. Salem had a violent crime rate of 4.2 per 1,000, with 41.7 property crimes per 1,000.

Eugene’s violent crime rate was 3.9 per 1,000. Its property crime rate was 32.2 per 1,000. Gresham had a violent crime rate of 4.2 per 1,000 and a property crime rate of 34.2 per 1,000.

Hillsboro had the lowest rates among the large cities with 2.6 violent crimes per 1,000 and 19 property crimes per 1,000.

Albany and Lebanon were not included in the Uniform Crime Reports for 2018.

The Uniform Crime Reports include what the FBI considers serious crimes reported to police in two categories: violent and property. Violent crimes tracked include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Sweet Home had 498 property crimes in 2018, up from 383 in 2017. Among those crimes, the number of thefts increased from 302 in 2017 to 429 in 2018. The most common violent crime is aggravated assault, which declined from 14 in 2017 to eight in 2018.

“We’ve always battled the property theft,” said Police Chief Jeff Lynn. “Thefts and property crimes have always driven our crime rates.”

The cause is hard to pin down, he said, but some of it is driven by socioeconomic conditions in Sweet Home.

“Some cultural aspects may play a role as well,” Lynn said. “We’re definitely aware of it.”

Overall, 2018 a little below average over the past six years, 55.2 per 1,000 population. The total crime rate for 2016 was 47.1 per 1,000, a little lower than 2018; but the rates were higher in 2013, with 55.5 per 1,000; 2014, with 71.4 per 1,000; and 2015, with 65.5 per 1,000.

While the big uptick from 2017 to 2018 might be disappointing, Lynn is “excited for 2019 to come out.”

Data for 2019 show a likely decline in the crime rate this year. The local data include a number of crimes that are not included in the Uniform Crime Reports. such as disorderly conduct, harassment, criminal trespass and criminal mischief.

Statistics may vary somewhat between the Police Department’s annual data, compiled in January, and the Uniform Crime Reports, which are released in the fall, based on definitions. For example, local data count 544 property crimes by the end of October 2018.

That’s the number that has Lynn looking forward to reporting 2019 crime data. As of Oct. 31, Sweet Home has had just 357 property crimes, defined locally, for 2019. That’s a 34.4-percent, nearly a third, reduction from 2018.

So far, violent crime has ticked up from 130 to 155 from last year to this year, Lynn said. Sweet Home saw a lot of harassment reports this year.

Harassment is not counted in the Uniform Crime Reports. Lynn said harassment is an unwanted physical contact that does not cause injury.

So far this year, as of Oct. 31, Sweet Home’s total call volume has declined by 11.2 percent, from 8,164 to 7,250, and the clearance rate for property crimes has improved by 27.7 percent, with 99 out of 357 reports cleared this year and as of the same date in 2018, 199 out of 544 cleared.