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Looking at Lansing’s crime numbers since 1996

LANSING, Ill. (July 6, 2023) – Whether or not a place is thought of as “safe” is often related directly to the perception of crime there. The Lansing Police Department’s annual tallies of crime provide one perspective on Lansing’s current outlook.

These statistics show fluctuations in Lansing’s crime numbers in the last 26 years, with increases in some offenses and not others.

Throughout the last 26 years, Lansing’s population has never fluctuated outside the range of 26,075 – 28,664. In other words, the population variable is somewhat isolated in the data below.

Total crime index — fluctuation, not increase

The chart below shows Lansing’s total crime index since 1996, which is all of the crime numbers totaled into one overall number. The number includes murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, battery, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

crime

Burglary, theft, robbery

In common parlance, the terms theft, burglary, and robbery are often used interchangeably. In the eyes of the law — and in the data of the Lansing Police Department — these offenses each have a specific definition.

  • Theft: Theft occurs when a person obtains another person’s property through deception or without their permission. “Property” is defined as anything of value.
  • Burglary: Burglary occurs when a person enters or remains in a building or other piece of property with the intent to commit a felony or theft.
  • Robbery: Robbery occurs when a person takes another person’s property by threatening to use force or by actually using force.

An additional category seen in the data below is motor vehicle theft, which is the possessing of a vehicle through theft.

Total crime minus thefts — increase

Of all the offenses included in the total crime index since 1996, theft makes up 71%. So thefts have a large impact on the trajectory of the total crime index from year to year. A year when thefts were down, for example, could bring down the total index even if most other crimes were up that year.

To mitigate the theft-effect on Lansing’s overall numbers, the chart below shows Lansing’s total crime index over the last 26 years without theft:

crime

The remaining charts focus on numbers for each specific offense that is part of the total crime index since 1996:


crime




Data limitations and considerations

Like most statistics, the data above must be understood in context. For example:

  1. The data set represents each instance as recorded by Lansing Police officers. It does not quantify arrests for the crimes listed, nor the number of people charged, nor the number of people ultimately convicted.
  2. In the reporting system used to gather the statistics above, multi-offense crimes are categorized only by their “most serious” offense. For example, in a situation where someone punched someone else (known as battery) while illegally possessing a weapon, “The weapon is the more serious offense, so the battery would not even be reported in [the data],” said Brian Weis, the Lansing Police Department’s Director of Communications and Records.
  3. The numbers do not show what percentage of crimes were performed by Lansing residents vs. non-Lansing residents. That information could have an impact on how Lansing residents feel about their own community.
  4. If the Lansing Police Department conducts targeted efforts to combat one crime or another, crime numbers may actually go up, because LPD is focusing on curbing that specific issue. The opposite could also be true: fewer arrests for a given crime from year to year may not mean that less of that crime is actually happening, just that fewer criminals are being caught committing it.

Data collection changes

Starting in 2022, crime data reporting in Lansing fundamentally changed as Lansing switched from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) system to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The NIBRS system uses differing categories for crimes, and will quantify each in different ways.

According to Weis, NIBRS has three categories: crimes against persons (aggravated assault, murder, rape, trafficking, etc.), crimes against property (robbery, burglary, destruction of property, etc.), and crimes against society (weapons offenses, drug offenses, prostitution, etc.).

The goal behind NIBRS is to create a more detailed crime reporting system that focuses on individual victims of a crime, rather than on the “most serious” crime. Weis gave an example: “If you have a semi truck driver that had his truck broken into and something was taken out of it, one incident happened, but [NIBRS] is going to count two victims: the trucking company and then the driver.”

LPD Director of Communications and Records Brian Weis drove a utility vehicle in the 2023 Good Neighbor Day Parade. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Therefore, comparing the previous 26 years’ crime stats in Lansing to the current and future stats will not be an apples-to-apples comparison. When asked if the historical data would become useless for that reason, Weis said, “Yes. Pretty much, yes.”

In fact, Weis said, the Illinois State Police’s NIBRS division has told law enforcement agencies that it is likely that crime numbers will go up using the new system.

As a result, Lansing residents will need to reset expectations when it comes to examining Lansing’s crime numbers in the future.

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Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.

2 COMMENTS

  1. i see the lansing police think they are chicago policeand that they can put out bogus reports and expect people to believe them

  2. Also not taken into account in these reports are racial demographics. As the demographics change so does the perception of what crime is or what is culturally accepted. The phrase “snitches get stitches” always comes to mind. Fortunately, it’s quite the opposite. Snitches help to keep a community safe. By reporting crimes and criminal activity, you send a direct message to criminals that their activities will not be tolerated in the community, and they should move along. A criminal’s worst enemy is watchful ever-present eyes on them and the ability to ID them to law enforcement. See something say something, is more than just a saying. It requires actual doing.

Comments are closed.

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