by Adam J. Wehrley
I’m an overprotective parent, I admit it. The world feels less safe than when I was a child, even in Clatskanie. The innocence seems to have been stripped off small-town America.
I’ve seen more of the darkness residing inside mankind than I wish existed, and we see more of that darkness, through the graphic content of TV, movies, the news media, the internet, literature and video games of today.
I think it is common to perceive the world as a more dangerous place than it was 20 or 50 years ago. It isn’t! The perception is false. While I truly believe society is less civil, less polite, less caring and less respectful of tradition and values, violent crime rates have been dropping drastically for decades.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently released its “2012 Crime in the United States” report as it has for the past 83 years. I find these reports captivating and uplifting, I can and do study them for hours, not out of a macabre fascination with death and violence, but out of the realization that despite the perception blasted across the national media hour-after-hour, the streets of America are safer from violence than they have been in my lifetime.
I have four children. Protecting them physically and spiritually is my most sacred duty. The fact that violent crime has dropped nearly 20 percent since my eldest child was born means I breathe easier as a parent.
Nationwide the violent crime rate has dropped 48 percent since 1993, from 747 incidents per 100,000 people to 386.9. Murder has dropped from 9.5 per 100,000 to 4.7, a 50 percent decrease.
In 1993 the U.S. had a population of 257 million people and we had 24,526 murders. In 2012 the population was 313 million, but we had 9,000 less murders, 14,827.
A single murder is too many and in every arena of society we must work to protect the innocent, but I rejoice that we are doing something as a society which is making the situation better, not just in theory, but in actual practice.
I am inclined to give the overwhelming bulk of credit to law enforcement agencies on all levels. Improvements in technology, information sharing, increased training and professionalism, a decrease in corruption and better interagency cooperation seem to all be contributing factors in law enforcement’s more effective ability to fight crime.
As society becomes increasingly uncivilized and violence is glorified more and more graphically, law enforcement has succeeded in making us safer. Thank you!
According to the FBI report, there were 1.2 million incidents of violent crime nationwide in 2012: 14,827 murders, 84,376 rapes, 354,522 robberies and 760,739 assaults. While murder, rape and assault increased slightly numerically over 2011, the rates either held steady or decreased, except for the assault rate which rose .8 incidents per 100,000 individuals.
The nationwide violent crime rate varied greatly between metropolitan and rural areas. The violent crime rate was 386 per 100,000; 409 in metropolitan areas, 380 in smaller cities and 177 in nonmetropolitan counties.
The metropolitan murder rate was 4.9 while the non-metro county rate was 3.3. The biggest difference was the robbery rate; 127.9 in large cities and 12.6 in non-metro counties. Assault rates between cities and rural counties were also significant, 250 in metro areas and 139 in non-metro counties.
13,157 of the 14,827 murders in 2012 were in metropolitan areas, 932 were in non-metro counties.
Crimes (especially murders) were broken down by various categories, although not all murders were placed in these categories. 1,841 murders involved some other felony; robberies resulted in 652 murders, rapes resulted in 15, burglaries 92, motor vehicle theft 22, arson 32.
Felonies relating to narcotics resulted in 362 murders, down from 500 in 2008. There were 871 gang-related murders
Romantic triangles resulted in 95 murders; 148 murders were due to arguments over money and property, and 3,085 murders related to other arguments.
While inter-racial violence gets more air time than anything else, it makes up only a fraction of the murders committed. Most murder is white-on-white, or black-on-black. Of the 3,128 white Americans (including Hispanics) murdered last year, 2,614 were murdered by other Caucasians, 431 by African-Americans
Of the 2,486 African-Americans murdered in 2012, 2,412 were killed by other blacks, 193 by Caucasians. The report did not indicate what portion of the interracial murders were racially-motivated or whether race was incidental. Drugs, alcohol and gang activity play much larger roles in violence than race.
State, County, Local
On a more local level, Oregon and Washington crime rates were far below the national average. Oregon’s violent crime rate dropped .7 percent from 249 per 100,000 in 2011 to 247 in 2012. Washington’s rate rose slightly from 295.3 to 295.6.
There were 84 murders in Oregon in 2011 and 92 in 2012 for a murder rate of 2.4 per 100,000 compared to 4.7 nationwide. Washington has a murder rate of 3.0. All other crime categories except robbery dropped in Oregon
Property crimes in the Northwest rose 3.2 percent in Oregon, 3.3 percent in Washington.
For 2012 Columbia County reported 20 incidents of violent crime; zero murders, three rapes, two robberies and 15 aggravated assaults. There were 187 property crimes.
Clatsop County had three assaults and no other violent crime, but 155 property crimes.
Across the river, Cowlitz County had 84 violent crimes in 2012; three murders, 35 rapes, one robbery, 45 assaults and 537 property crimes.
In 2012 Clatskanie had one rape, one robbery and two assaults and 51 property crimes, in the city. In 2011 the only violent crime was a robbery and there were 29 property crimes.
Rainier crime figures were not available for 2012, but 2011 crimes were: one robbery and 58 property crimes.
Thus far in 2013 there has been a rash of burglaries in north Columbia County which will be reflected in next year’s results. Clatskanie and Rainier police departments and Columbia County Sheriff Office (CCSO) deputies have been diligent in investigating the crimes, recovering stolen goods and capturing those responsible.
The county jail, operated by the CCSO, has been functioning on a revolving door policy with the local population dropping to only 17 beds. Traditionally the jail has needed between 100 and 125 local beds. The operation of the jail is heavily supplemented by rentals to federal agencies.
With an estimated $2.4 million annual shortfall, the proposed jail operations levy appears to be the only alternative to shutting the jail completely.
If approved by voters on the Nov. 5th ballot the bond will entail a 58 cents per $1000 of assessed value increase to property taxpayers in areas of the county not under tax compression.
Under the levy, the jail will still be dependent on federal bed rental, but will be able to maintain a local population of 100 inmates.
It is clear from the FBI report that America is a safer place than it has been, that Oregon, and small-town Oregon in particular, is far safer than many places.
We give our sincere thanks to our local, county, state and federal law enforcement personnel for their courage, professionalism and dedication.
We support the jail levy as a regrettable, but necessary measure to safeguard our communities in a time of economic upheaval.
We urge our fellow citizens to resist the pessimism and desensitization invoked by the glorification of violence in entertainment and the sensationalism in many media outlets and embrace the peace and safety we can enjoy in our communities.
This really is a safer place than we have had or have appreciated before.