Keene Sentinel: Taking measure of crime01-23-2012 (PDF Version)
Taking measure of crime
By Casey Farrar Sentinel Staff | Posted: Friday, January 20, 2012 12:15 pm
Keene is ranked sixth among communities in the state for violent crimes and third for property crimes, according to a recently released report on New Hampshire’s crime rates by a nonprofit public policy organization.
The “Crime in New Hampshire 2011” report by the N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies released this month showed that while the Granite State boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country, arrest rates for offenses are relatively poor.
According to the report, Keene’s property crime rate — at 3,392.5 per 100,000 residents — is slightly above the national average of 3,255.1 per 100,000 people. The Elm City’s violent crime rate, however, is 227.4 per 100,000 residents, which is well below the national 459.3 average, the report showed.
Lt. James F. McLaughlin, commander of the Keene Police Department’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations, said the department holds biweekly meetings to review crime statistics in the city and follows short- and long-term trends to determine the department’s response.
“We were seeing property crimes had a lot to do with drugs, specifically heroin,” McLaughlin said. “The way we found that is that many of the cases that were resolved went back to issues like that, especially in robberies, burglaries and thefts.”
In response, the department has focused on assisting the N.H. Attorney General’s Office Drug Task Force in investigations of local drug dealers or drug trafficking rings, McLaughlin said.
“We find that many (people committing property crimes) will get together and operate together,” McLaughlin said. “And every time we broke up some of these little teams, we’d see a reduction in crimes, but unfortunately other groups would form up.”
Communities with higher violent crime rates than Keene were Manchester, Laconia, Somersworth, Rochester and Claremont. Laconia and Lebanon had higher property crime rates than Keene, according to the report.
The study, designed to inform policymakers and the public of recent trends in the state, is the first comprehensive look at crime rates in New Hampshire since a report published in 1993. Data used to calculate the five-year crime rate was collected between 2006 and 2010.
The report considered factors of age and poverty in crime rates, indicating that communities with larger percentages of young people and people living at poverty level had higher crime rates.
The report listed the college towns of Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, and Hanover, where Dartmouth College is located, as outliers in this because they have higher amounts of young people and people living in poverty, but comparatively lower crime rates.
Keene was not noted as a “college town” in the report, despite its relatively large student population at Keene State College. The city has a 22,591 population and the college’s enrollment is about 5,000.
The presence of the college in Keene does have some effect on the city’s crime rate, McLaughlin said.
“Statistically speaking with crime, the majority of people arrested are male between the ages of 15 and 25,” McLaughlin said. “When you take an extra 3,000 people in the area between 18 and 23, that does go into the mix.”
For example, about half the of the reported rape victims in the city have ties to the college, McLaughlin said.
Statewide, the study reported that one property crime is committed every 18 minutes and one violent crime every four hours.
Using 2010 data, authors of the report determined that less that 33 percent of violent crimes and less than 15 percent of property crimes in the state result in arrests.
New Hampshire’s overall crime rate of 2,353 per 100,000 residents is 30 percent lower than the national average of 3,346 per 100,000, and the state had the fourth-lowest rate in the nation, after New York, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the report.
New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies