Annual FBI report shows dip in violent, property crime locally

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA, LAKE COUNTIES — The largest communities in the area saw a small dip in the number of crimes reported between 2016 and 2017, according to data released this week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The figures are derived from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, an annual study that compiles statistics of offenses, arrests and police employees voluntarily reported by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The report shows smaller communities in Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties saw crime increase slightly or stagnate.

“Typically, the only major changes that come year and year out are when various crimes become legalized or recategorized,” Big Rapids Public Safety Director Jim Eddinger said. “We’re pleased to see the number of crimes remain relatively small — and when it comes to those crimes that are reported, you need to take context into the equation.

“Are we talking about someone taking the change from your car’s center console, or are we talking about someone breaking into your house and cleaning you out? In this community, I think our property crimes fall more into the first category. (Big Rapids) is a safe, small place to live.”

Big Rapids saw a 9-percentage point decrease from 2016 to 2017 in property crime — burglaries, larceny/thefts, motor vehicle thefts and arsons — going from 157 to 143.

In the same time period, violent crimes — defined by the FBI as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — dropped 25 percent in Big Rapids, from 32 reported cases to 24.

Eddinger noted that in a small city like Big Rapids (population 10,437, according to the report) major swings in data can occur when just one person, who is responsible for a large number of crimes, is arrested. He said the department’s clearance rate — the number of crimes which result in charges being issued against a person — may be a better indicator of activity in a smaller police department.

“In a bigger area and a grander scale, the data will show trends. In a small sample, in a little city, you might not see a major trend. Our officers and administrators are very close to the streets,” he said.

Other large communities in the area saw a decrease in crime. In Mecosta County on a whole, the number of property crimes declined in 2016 to 2017, from 378 to 350. Over the same time period, the number of violent crimes fell from 241 to 195.

“It’s always good to see rates of crime go down, at least over the past year,” Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell said.
“We see, year after year, the majority of crime in this county is property crime. There has been a slight uptick in assaults over the past few years, but that’s reflective across the country.”

Osceola County saw a 36 percent decrease in property crime from 2016 to 2017, a total of 205 to 131. There was a similarly large decline in violent crime over the same time frame — 45 to 26, or 42 percent.

Lake County saw a small increase in crimes reported to the FBI. According to the report, there were 156 property crimes in 2016, compared to 207 in 2017. There was an increase of 13 violent crimes from 2016 to 2017, going from 20 to 33.

The FBI itself advises against using its data to create rankings. According to the agency’s website, comparisons “lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.”

Not all communities report their data to the FBI, the website also notes.

Elsewhere in the local area:

— Ferris State University reported 45 property crimes and four violent crimes in 2017. In 2016, there were 38 property crimes and five violent crimes at the school.

— Reed City reported 34 property crimes and seven violent crimes in 2017. In 2016, there were 38 property crimes and five property crimes reported.

— Evart reported 28 property crimes and six violent crimes in 2017. In 2016, there were 45 property crimes and six violent crimes reported.

— Barryton reported four property crimes and no violent crimes in 2017. In 2016, there were also four property crimes and no violent crimes.

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