LANSING, Ill. (July 7, 2023) – “Is Lansing a safe place to live?”
Residents, former residents, and prospective residents of Lansing have likely considered this question in one form or another.
Maybe you’ve been asked it point blank. Or maybe it’s come to mind as you’ve watched squad cars scream down Torrence Avenue. Maybe you know someone who moved out of Lansing because their answer to the question was “no.” Maybe you have been the victim of a crime, and you’re now forced to ask yourself the question.
Yesterday, The Lansing Journal published an article detailing Lansing’s crime statistics since 1996. I wrote that article, and it gave me an opportunity to ask a lot of questions and crunch a lot of numbers. I hope that it gives people a sense of how complex the issue of crime and safety is:
In writing it, there were more thoughts that came to my mind than could be included in a news-style article, so I wanted to share some of them here.
So, is Lansing a safe place?
“Is Lansing a safe place?” That is a complex question without a yes-or-no answer.
Here are a few smaller questions within that larger one:
- Does Lansing have less overall crime now than in 1996? Yes.
- Setting thefts aside, does Lansing have less crime now than in 1996? No.
- Have assaults and batteries gone up in the last 26 years? Yes.
- Have burglaries gone up in the last 26 years? No, they’ve gone down.
- Do we know how many crimes committed in Lansing are by Lansing residents? No.
- Do we know how many reported crimes turn into arrests, and ultimately into convictions? No.
- Do Lansing’s crime numbers completely reflect every crime that occurs in Lansing? No, only the ones recorded by LPD, and in cases of multiple-offense incidents, only the “most serious” offense.
Rather than clarifying whether Lansing is safe, these questions actually muddy the waters even more. But in a sense, that’s good. It’s good for us to recognize how complicated the issue is — and how complicated our feelings are about it.
For example, consider the question of who is committing crimes in Lansing. We don’t know if the perpetrators live here in Lansing or if they came from out of town. Which would make you feel safer? Would you feel better knowing your neighbors aren’t the ones committing crimes? Or would you feel worse because factors outside your control are negatively impacting our neighborhoods?
Safety as a personal conclusion
What does it actually mean for a place to be “safe”?
I maintain that the crime numbers reported yesterday are only one factor in each of our individual calculations of the “is Lansing safe” question.
If you spend hours on social media tracking what people say about police sirens nearby or suspicious-looking characters on their block, that might affect your answer.
If you regularly talk with friends who live in Chicago, or Iowa, or California, or Japan, that might affect your answer.
If you’ve been a victim of a violent crime in Lansing, you might understandably think Lansing is not a safe place.
On the other hand, if you’ve lived on the same block for decades, found a loving church family, and made friends with your neighbors — you might understandably believe there is no safer place for you than Lansing, Illinois.
While to some degree safety is a data-driven reality, it is just as much a felt reality — determined by experiences and countless influences in our lives.
So the next time someone asks me, “Is Lansing a safe place?,” my answer will start with something like, “Well, that’s a good question with a very complicated answer—”
Beyond evaluating — promoting
A more actionable question might be, “What am I doing to make Lansing a place where people feel safe?”
The most well-informed debate about Lansing’s safety won’t do anything to improve it.
Change comes as Lansing’s citizens take steps to promote safety — and this happens in lots of small interactions. Saying hello to someone walking by on your front sidewalk. Taking a moment to get to know your server at a Lansing restaurant. Helping your neighbor shovel her driveway. Talking to, praying with, and buying lunch for a homeless person in need. These are the actions of citizens who want Lansing to be a place where people feel safe.
So, if your answer to “Is Lansing a safe place?” is yes, what are you doing to keep it that way? And if your answer is no, what little things are you doing to make it safer?