Amicus lector
Is violent crime ‘soaring’ in Sioux Falls?

Sioux Falls makes a lot of lists.

Lists about the best cities for businesses or “Best Places To Live” or “Best Mid-Sized Cities to Move To” are frequently populated by places like Sioux Falls.

Well, we made another list recently for a not-so-pleasant reason. The business news site 24/7 Wall Street put Sioux Falls at number seven on its list of cities with the highest growth in violent crime per capita in this article.

Now, let’s be clear about what the list says and what it doesn’t: Sioux Falls’ appearance on the list doesn’t mean that we had the seventh-highest increase in violent crime among metropolitan areas.

It also doesn’t mean we had the most murders, most assaults or most rapes (all classified as violent crimes by the Federal Bureau of Investigation). What it does mean is that among metro areas whose borders did not change between 2007 and 2012 and reported consistently to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, we had the seventh-largest jump in violent crime.

It’s a big jump, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve written some about this at the Argus Leader. The same FBI numbers used to compile 24/7’s list had violent assaults rising 128 percent between 2005 and 2012 in this story by Mark Walker.

We’ve also written a lot about the strain that crime is putting on the Minnehaha County Jail. Here’s Sheriff Mike Milstead talking about the future.

I hadn’t seen Sioux Falls specifically on a list like this until the Sioux Falls Business Journal’s Jodi Schwan sent out the link last night.

The reporters note that some of the cities on the crime list – Sioux Falls among them – have seen rapid population and job growth alongside the increase in crime.

That’s the point Sioux Falls Police Chief Doug Barthel takes away from the numbers. Sioux Falls adds 3,000 to 4,000 people a year, and “when people move into your city, some of them are going to commit crimes,” Barthel said.

“Given the fact that our city is growing the way it is, I’m not alarmed by the numbers,” he said. “If we had a stagnant population and we saw numbers like that, I’d be more concerned.”

Walker’s story from December notes that a change in state law re-defining domestic aggravated assault makes a difference in the numbers. The 2012 shift makes assault by strangulation a felony. In the past, the same behavior was classified as misdemeanor assault.

That wouldn’t have made a difference in the 2007-2012 numbers, but it will in the future. Crimes like domestic assault, which Barthel says cut across income groups, are difficult to prevent.

“We can’t put a police officer in every house where there’s an ongoing domestic situation,” he said.

Barthel does take issue with 24/7’s use of the word “soaring” to describe the crime rate. The chief thinks that’s an unfair characterization of what’s happening here.

“The good things that are happening in our city because of the growth far outweigh the bad,” he said.

For those of you who don’t want to bother with the link from 24/7 (which is full of interesting lists, you’d find), here’s the list of cities. The number after each is the percentage increase in violent crime for 2007-2012

10. Lewiston, Idaho/Wash.: 44.5 percent

9. Appleton, Wisc.: 46.1 percent

8. Bangor, Maine: 46.8 percent

7. Sioux Falls, S.D.: 49.7 percent

6. Morgantown, W. Va.: 50.8 percent

5. Redding, Cali.: 53.8 percent

4. Hanford-Corcoran, Cali.: 65.3 percent

3. Wheeling, W. Va.: 67.7 percent

2. Columbus, Ind.: 70.1

1. Odessa, Texas: 75.5 percent

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