I am writing this letter in response to questions I received regarding the recent mailing that went out to residences in Orange referencing the Town’s ranking in the November 2013 issue of Connecticut Magazine. The mailing referenced the fact that “In 2004, Orange was ranked #4. Today Connecticut Magazine ranks Orange 33 out of 36.” While there are several categories that are rated as part of the overall ranking, I was questioned why Orange ranked so low in the crime category of the magazine. There are two points that need to be made here:
- Previous issues of Connecticut Magazine have ranked towns and cities by similar populations. For the first time, the November 2013 issue ranked the towns and cities by the median home cost. In this issue we were rated against a new group of towns and cities, making any comparison to previous years’ rankings somewhat irrelevant.
- Connecticut Magazine uses the figures from the Department of Public Safety to rank the cities and towns in the crime section of the comparisons. These figures are based on two criteria: number of UCR crimes reported and population. Orange has always had a high rate because we are somewhat unique, at least here in Connecticut, for having such a small population (13,952), and such a large commercial area (Boston Post Road) that generates property type offenses. I will explain this further, so that our residents are better informed.
The UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) system is used by all law enforcement agencies to report crime to the state and federal governments. It is based on the very specific Index Offenses of Murder, Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Larceny, Mother Vehicle Theft and Arson. The number of these offenses in any given municipality are added together to establish the Crime Index Total, although the number of arsons is not included in this total. The Larceny offense category has no monetary value associated with the offense. Ultimately, whether you have five homicides, or five $10 shopliftings, the total number of offenses is the same. The crime rate is based on the number of offenses per 100,000 persons, therefore the 100,000 figure needs to be divided by the actual population, and then that number is multiplied by the Crime Index Total to arrive at the crime rate. For instance, the November 2013 issue of Connecticut Magazine used the UCR statistics from 2012. Orange had a Crime Index Total of only 383, but based on our population of 13,952, the formula described above gave us a crime rate of 2,745.1. Approximately 90% of our Crime Index Total of 383 was comprised of theft related offenses, and approximately 35% of the total was for routine store shopliftings. This is quite normal and usual for the Town of Orange. As a point of comparison, the City of Stamford (5 murders, 25 rapes, 145 robberies, 176 aggravated assaults, 290 burglaries, 1,472 larcenies, and 170 vehicle thefts – Crime Index Total 2,283) actually had a lower crime rate than Orange because of its large population of 125,109.
Based on all of the above, it is easy to see how these crime rates can be misleading, and how crime rates need to be analyzed and not taken at face value, as there are many different factors that influence them. On its website, the FBI strongly cautions against using UCR statistics for purposes such as ranking the towns, as Connecticut Magazine does, as “they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime”, and “consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.” People who have lived in Orange for any length of time and who read Connecticut Magazine know not to trust this ranking system. In fact, our 2012 Crime Index Total and corresponding crime rate were among the lowest we’ve seen in the past thirty-five years, and the current figures for the third quarter of 2013 are lower than what they were in 2012 at the third quarter. In general, our crime rate has been going down over the past several years, and our UCR numbers in the past decade have been much lower than what we were seeing in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This is not unique to the Town of Orange as this has been a national trend.
Each month our crime statistics are reported to the Board of Police Commissioners, and approximately five years ago I instituted a practice of releasing monthly statistics to our local media. That practice will continue. Residents seeking further information on Uniform Crime Reporting for Connecticut, can access records at www.dpsdata.ct.gov/dps/ucr/ucr.aspx. Additional information on the UCR system and national statistics can be accessed through www.fbi.gov. Again, I stress that crime statistics cannot be looked at in simplistic ways, and further research and analysis is required in order to give them proper meaning and consideration.
Although national crime rates are generally decreasing, the issues facing law enforcement have grown more complex over the years and law enforcement continues to respond to these issues. Here in Orange, we do not rest on our laurels and constantly seek improvement. The men and women of the Orange Police Department will continue to remain vigilant, and will continue to work hard to keep our community safe.
Chief Robert J. Gagne
Orange Police Department