Contrary to state and national trends, the FBI reports severe crimes increased between 2001 and 2002 in Brainerd, Baxter and Little Falls.
"Nobody should draw from this that either community (Brainerd or Baxter) is overrun with crime," said Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc. "We have a job to reduce crime and that is our overall goal."
The FBI's crime index is the total number of murders and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft reported by each law enforcement agency.
As a state, Minnesota in 2002 had a crime index of 177,454, or 3,535 per 100,000 residents. That's a decrease from 2001, when the state's crime index was 178,191, or 3,583 per 100,000 residents.
Nationally the crime index, made up of violent and property crimes, has been decreasing. The 2000 numbers were the lowest measure since 1978 and the crime index largely was unchanged from the previous year. Five- and 10-year trend data show the crime index in 2002 was 4.9 percent lower than the estimate from 1998 and 16 percent lower than the 1993 estimate.
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program compiles the total number of murders and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft and motor vehicle theft and arson reported by each law enforcement agency.
Of reporting area cities with a population under 10,000, Baxter had the greatest increase in its crime index from 2001 to 2002, increasing 29 percent, from 373 to 482. Of that increase, a majority came in the reported larceny/theft category.
One likely reason is the rise of retail in the area and greater technology is catching criminals, such as shoplifters. The rise of methamphetamine labs also is in the mix as conspiracy cases can involve people in retail locations.
Bolduc said Brainerd has seen a pretty steady rate of crime during the last few years. The types of crimes are spread across the board.
But Bolduc said he did not like the fact Brainerd had a high ranking compared to other cities of similar size. And he said he would like to see an overall reduction and believes it can be accomplished with concentrated effort.
Rental housing inspections and crime prevention programs are expected to help, Bolduc said.
Crime index for cities Brainerd's size
2002 Uniform Crime Report index for Minnesota cities with a population of 10,000-20,000.
The crime report index is the total of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. Crime rate per 100,000 population.
1. Bemidji -- 1,004
2. Brainerd -- 994
3. Willmar -- 861
4. Owatonna -- 853
5. Red Wing -- 783
6. Elk River -- 782
7. Northfield -- 617
8. Fergus Falls -- 589
9. Fairmont -- 580
10. Marshall -- 579
11. Hutchinson -- 562
12. Cloquet -- 465
13. Buffalo -- 397
14. Worthington -- 364
15. New Ulm -- 357
16. Sauk Rapids -- 343
17. Hibbing -- 315
18. North Mankato -- 285
(Source: Brainerd Police Department)
"Right now I think we have the tools to get started," Bolduc said.
Seventy to 80 percent of calls to Brainerd police come from about 20 percent of addresses. Bolduc said overall crime issues are affected by poor screening of rental tenants. He noted crime is affected by the high transient population in Brainerd with the high proportion of rental housing, but acknowledged people in the system also can be those who have lived here for generations. He said crime issues are not limited to rental property but there is a decreased crime rate correlation with home ownership.
Bolduc said a goal is to move the city's listing to more of an average instead of being at the top of the chart. One dynamic that may not be readily reflected in the Brainerd lake's area is the area's population influx for the tourist season that may set it apart from other cities of similar year-round size.
Little Falls saw a 23 percent increase in its crime index total from 2001 to 2002, from 316 to 391. Like Baxter, a majority of the increase was in theft.
"In a smaller town you can have a rash of stuff that takes place and it can throw the figures out of whack," said Little Falls Police Chief Mike Pender. "That stuff is all cyclical, anyway. It goes up and goes down. You get a group of kids going around ripping stuff off one time and your numbers go up."
Pender said the FBI statistics only take into account the more severe Type 1 crimes. Pender said if Type 2 crimes -- narcotic offenses, driving under the influence, forgery, weapons charges and vandalism, to name a few -- were considered in the FBI's report the Little Falls crime index would have stayed about even between 2001 and 2002.
Pender also noted an oddity in the FBI's crime index: motor vehicle theft is listed as a Type 1, and thus more severe, crime while narcotics offenses fall under the less-severe crime category of Type 2 crimes.
In three other area cities with a population under 10,000 people -- Crosby, Staples and Wadena -- the crime index numbers were steady from 2001 to 2002.
The Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which reports the crime index, had its beginnings in 1929 when the International Association of Chiefs of Police wanted to have reliable uniform crime statistics for the nation. A year later the FBI was given the job of collecting, publishing and storing the statistics.
The FBI's Web site -- www.fbi.gov -- provides a wealth of information on crime data and trends across the nation. Not all law enforcement agencies report the data to the FBI leaving holes for selected municipalities. A computer problem in Crow Wing County created an absence of data for 2001 in the state and FBI reports.
Data for the Uniform Crime Reporting Program comes from nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the nation.
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