Crime statistics… important to know where you want to live?

One of the considerations you may have as you consider relocating, or purchasing property is the type of and volume of crime existing in an area.  We know in reality that no rural area or small town is immune from being effected by criminal activity… no matter how remote it is, or how proficient law enforcement is at crime prevention.  I recall when I was a police officer in Miami that people would stop me when I was on patrol to ask about crime in the area. My response was to direct them to our police department where they could get that information, and additionally look at a pin map on the wall showing locations of reported crimes.

Recently, I was showing a home and the customer commented to me that they researched the crime in the small town, and county.  Although they seemed confident with the number they read, maybe they misstated it.  But, I knew immediately that it couldn’t be accurate… 400+ homicides in a county of 20,000+- people… that’s almost the population of the small town!  There’s possibly a mathematical formula, or other factors that may have contributed to the resulting number… maybe the ratio of people to amount of crimes. The best source of information, again, as it was 30+ years ago in Miami, is to inquire directly with a local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in your area of interest.

Because I was curious I decided to check some internet sources myself.  Crime statistics can be divided into two categories: violent (involving people), and property/non-violent (involving “things”). One source I checked showed crime in a specific rural North Carolina county to be above the national average, above nearby Asheville, and as high as (violent crimes) or slightly lower (property crimes) than the state of North Carolina.  Obviously, there is some kind of formula being used to arrive at these high numbers which result in what I feel is inaccurate and misleading data.  Then I did a “side by side” comparison of the rural North Carolina county to Miami Florida for crime statistics.  Oddly, the property crime “number” was almost the same in the rural county as in Miami. There is no thorough explanation that I saw to explain the numbers presented.  I’m quite certain that the information I saw was not an accurate representation of the actual amount and or type of crimes in the rural North Carolina county. Maybe I missed some small print as a justification of the numbers… ?

Many people in the rural area where I live and practice real estate leave their homes unlocked (whether they are there or not), and leave their vehicles unlocked, too. While I do not leave my property unlocked, I do understand why people feel that it’s safe to do so. They are distant from the city, and in their minds distant from crime associated with more populated areas.  While I don’t recommend this practice to newcomers in the area, most of my opinion is based on a 25 year law enforcement career, and old habits are hard to break.

The moral to the story… statistics can be derived from different mathematical formulas used to obtain them, and they can be manipulated to present a certain way.  My suggestion is don’t rely 100% on statistics, especially if the source of the information isn’t recognized, or proven.  If crime statistics are important for you to evaluate then go to the source for the most accurate information. Most but not all, i.e. active investigations, sex crimes for crime statistics in a given area are public record.  Additionally, if you want to know about registered sex offenders in a specific area of North Carolina you can check on-line here:

sexoffender.ncsbi.gov

I believe that knowing the type and amount of reported crimes is a part of the due diligence process that should be evaluated when relocating, or purchasing property.   Just be cautious about what you read, and who you listen to when considering the information.

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