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NH has 3rd-lowest rate of violent crime, according to FBI statistics

Staff and Wire Report
September 25. 2018 10:55PM

2017 FBI report
Maine: 121 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents.

Vermont: 165.8 incidents per 100,000.

New Hampshire: 198.7 incidents per 100,000


New Hampshire is once again in an enviable spot following the release of the FBI’s latest crime rate data.

The Granite State had the third-lowest rate of violent crime in 2017 — 198.7 incidents per 100,000 residents — trailing only Vermont (165.8) and Maine (121). Violent crime was down slightly nationwide, and it was the second year in a row that New Hampshire’s rate decreased.

There was one glaring outlier in the statistics, however. The rate of rape in the Granite State was significantly higher than the rest of the country, with a rate of 49.4 incidents per 100,000 residents in New Hampshire. That compares to the average of 30.7 nationwide.

That disparity has long been the case — without any clear explanation — according to Cesar Rebellon, a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire.

There is also no definite explanation for why northern New England tends to have a lower violent crime rate than other regions, although evidence points to several factors.

“The existing literature would suggest that high violence tends to be associated with a high concentration of poverty in neighborhoods that are surrounded by other areas within the same city that have a lot of wealth” and in areas with high population density, Rebellon said.

Given northern New England’s rural nature, there are few locations where those circumstances exist.

A look at offenses by town and city in New Hampshire, according to the FBI:

Tuftonboro Police Chief Andrew Shagoury, president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, said that New Hampshire’s low unemployment rate of 2.7 percent is likely another contributing factor.

“It makes for a great state to raise a family and for businesses,” he said. “If you don’t feel safe or have security, it’s not very attractive on either of those fronts.”

According to the FBI data, less than half of violent crimes — 45.6 percent nationwide — were “cleared” in 2017, meaning they involved cases where someone was arrested and charged or the case was closed some other way, including the death of the attacker.

The figures suggest that a rise in violent crime starting in 2015 may have begun reversing itself in 2017. In 2014, there were 1,153,022 violent crimes, which climbed to 1,250,162 such crimes in 2016. Last year, that figure dipped to 1,247,321, the FBI said.

The declines announced Monday come after the increases in violence in 2015 and 2016 prompted alarm nationwide, including from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who warned of “the rising tide of violent crime” across the country. 

Experts have cautioned against reading too much into annual data, while others have pointed to the dramatic decline in crime over the last quarter-century in arguing for criminal justice reforms.

“Crime declined nationwide last year, consistent with our earlier analyses of 2017 data in the nation’s 30 largest cities,” Ames Grawert, senior counsel in the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, said in a statement. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that even while crime is falling, the number of Americans incarcerated remains at near-record highs. Now is the time to address the problem.”

A look at offenses by state, according to the FBI:

The Brennan Center reported in an analysis earlier this year that violent crime and murder had dropped in the 30 largest U.S. cities, although some cities still had homicide rates lingering above the levels recorded in 2015.

Violent crime and murder have both plummeted since the 1980s and 1990s, federal data show. In 1991, the violent crime rate was 758.2 per 100,000 people, while the murder rate was 9.8 per 100,000 people. Last year, the violent crime rate was 382.9 and the murder rate was 5.3, the FBI data showed.

However, even as violent crime has dropped overall, the issue still plagues some cities, as does a lack of arrests in many homicide cases. 

A Washington Post analysis of decades of data from the 50 largest cities found that many had a lower homicide-arrest rate now than a decade earlier. The overall homicide-arrest rate in these 50 cities was 49 percent, but numerous places see frequent murders and have pockets where these killings result in far fewer arrests. (Related story, Page B5.) 

The FBI’s crime data are based on information provided by thousands of state and local police departments, and officials have been working since 2016 to improve the types of data collected.

For 2017, 203 out of New Hampshire’s 248 law enforcement agencies reported their statistics. 

“With richer data,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement, “we can more easily identify crime patterns and trends, understand how and why certain crimes are happening, and find the best way to prevent them.”

Union Leader Staff Writer Todd Feathers and the Washington Post contributed to this story.



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