Friday, September 7, 2012

Rootless Relocation, Part 5: The Crime Factor

Old Missouri State Penitentiary, Art in the Park, 2008

When I was doing research for where in New Mexico I want to live, opinion-holders in various venues spoke of New Mexico's high crime rate. Normally, the crime rate of a destination doesn't figure in to my calculations, but I saw so many references to it, I thought I'd check it out.

My observation is that sometimes folks make pronouncements on crime rates based on perception rather than reality. For example, for awhile there a year or so ago, people were rabid about how illegal immigrants are a major source of crime, which belied the fact that illegal immigrants are more law-abiding as a group than legal U.S. residents. Arizona, a flashpoint on illegal immigrants, has a lower crime rate than Missouri, which has significantly fewer illegal immigrants.

Years ago, I had a Spanish professor from Chile. He grew up in Chile during tumultuous years of military rule and the overthrow of the democratically-elected Salvador Allende. But when he traveled from Chile to New York City, his mother feared for his life because it was so dangerous in America!  

Anyhoo, let's take a look at how New Mexico crime figures compare with Missouri and the U.S. as a whole, using different angles.

Old Missouri State Penitentiary, Prison Jesus, Art in the Park, 2008

The Institute of Economics and Peace

From its website: The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) is a non-profit research organization dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress.

It achieves its goals by developing new conceptual frameworks to define peacefulness; providing metrics for measurement; uncovering the relationship between peace, business and prosperity, and by promoting a better understanding of the cultural, economic and political factors that drive peacefulness.

To evaluate each state's level of peacefulness, IEP looks at five measures:
  1. Number of homicides per 100,00 people (from FBI)
  2. Number of violent crimes per 100,000 people (from FBI) 
  3. Incarceration rate per 100,000 people (from U.S. Bureau of Justice)
  4. Number of police employees per 100,000 people (from FBI)
  5. Availability of small arms (extrapolated from CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and Fatal Injury Reports)
IEP doesn't weight the above equally. Number of homicides and violent crime are each weighted as the most important indicators at 4. Incarceration and police employees are each weighted at 3. Access to small arms is weighted the lowest of indicators at 1.

According to the 2012 United States Peace Index Report: 
  • New Mexico is the 34th most peaceful state
  • Missouri is the 45th most peaceful state

Old Missouri State Penitentiary, Art in the Park, 2008

FBI statistics

FBI stats here
U.S. totals are in Table 1 on right sidebar.
State-by-state totals in Table 5 on right sidebar.

Violent crimes per 100,000 people (includes murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery)

  • New Mexico: 588.9
  • Missouri: 455
  • U.S. total: 403.6

Property crime per 100,000 people (includes burglary, larceny/theft, auto theft)
  • New Mexico: 3435.4
  • Missouri: 3346.4
  • U.S. total: 2941.9

So looking at the above two indicators alone, New Mexico has significantly more violent crime (mostly due to its higher numbers of aggravated assault and rape) and 2% more property crime than Missouri.

Both New Mexico and Missouri's rates exceed the U.S. total rates.

Old Missouri State Penitentiary, Art in the Park, 2008

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