Misreading Sioux Falls Crime Rate Feeds Hysteria [OPINION]
You've probably already heard about the report of the skyrocketing crime rate in Sioux Falls. Take a breath. It's not what it appears.
The ranking was published by USA Today with the headline "25 Cities Where Crime is Soaring." It's based on analysis of FBI data from an organization called 24/7 Wall St.
I would say the headline is technically correct, but what it's lacking, and what gets exaggerated by folks on social media and the campaign trail, is the context of the study.
First, the actual rate of violent crime in Sioux Falls -- as the article points out if you read it -- is at the national average. That's the average for the entire country, not just the metropolitan areas. So we're average.
Second, the actual rate of violent crime in 2016 is 388 per 100,000 residents. That's still below many, many cities. That includes -- prepare yourself -- Rapid City. Yes, our brother city has a rate of 495 per 100,000.
Now, our INCREASE in the rate of violent crime is second over the past five years. That's true and not to be dismissed. It rose 80 percent from 215 per 100,000 in 2011.
But compare that to the top city on the list, Monroe, La. That city's rate increased by 85 percent. But look at the base numbers. The violent crime rate in Monroe last year was 1,187 per 100,000. That means the crime rate in Monroe is 3 times as high as Sioux Falls.
It's also important to note that many of the other cities on the list are also smaller metro areas in the Midwest -- or at least non-coastal -- with historically low rates. So a little more violent crime can have an outsized effect on the increase.
Statistics and data are wonderful ways to find out what's happening in our community. But used for political purposes, or shared fanatically on social media, where nobody reads past a headline, is the stuff upon which hysteria and paranoia are built.
Be skeptical when our candidates for mayor and City Council start saying the top priority in Sioux Falls is crime. That's short-sighted.
We shouldn't ignore crime. In fact, we don't ignore crime.
We have a growing substance abuse problem. It's a problem we share with the entire country and one that needs to be addressed.
But we can't do that without a reasonable and rational discussion.
Headlines alone don't do that.
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