Crime Stats: Behind the Numbers

Crime Stats: Behind the Numbers
By: CJ Cassidy

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - The Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Justice Department comes out with a laundry list of numbers every year showing you how crimes stack up across the country. 
Many tourism and media agencies use those numbers to see how we compare to national statistics.  But local police say the numbers can be misleading.  They say don't get caught up in the numbers.
Police say you have to remember Cape's population increases from a little over 35,000 at night to more than 100,000 during the day, because people come to Cape to work and shop.
That influx can change the numbers.  Cape Girardeau attracts thousands of people into the city everyday, and police say that includes some crooks.
"Our stealing has always been higher than normal.  We look at the fact that we have a mall, a lot of people influx to the area during the day, not only people working but criminals come to steal," said Cpl. Jason Selzer with the Cape Girardeau Police Department.
That can skew the figures police report on to federal authorities.  But not everyone worries about numbers.
Terrisha Lee moved to Cape to improve the quality of her life. 
"There's a lot of poverty in Joliet, Illinois," she said. "People die and there are gangs and things like that."
Lee lives on Cape's southside and says it's not the violent crimes like homicide, rape and arson that affect her because they rarely happen in Cape.
"I see that the neighborhood's not so clean.  There's a lot of drug dealing going on here, so much so my daughter knows what's going on.  She's three years old," she said. 
Police say different crimes impact different neighborhoods, even if those figures are lumped together under one city.
"If you have a huge number of crimes in an area you can't disregard that, but make sure you look behind the numbers see what's going on," Selzer said. 
That's because police say those numbers can sometimes be misleading.
"We had one homicide one year now we've got two.  So now we've got a hundred percent increase," Selzer said.
Officers suggest talking to people who live in a neighborhood to get a real idea of what goes on there.
Take Bill VanPelt.  He's part of a watch group and has a pretty good idea of the problems in his neighborhood.
"What really bothers me is the traffic going by on Randol.  They speed by here.  Two blocks over, periodically they have crime.  At one rental house they were pushing dope, there was a lot of traffic," he said. 
VanPelt and his neighbors called police about their suspicions, and he says that put a stop to that. 
Police say you can always call them to get an idea if you plan on moving into a new neighborhood, but also check it out for yourself.  Drive through some of those areas and see if you feel safe.