Overall crime rate declining in St. Johns …

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By Rachel Bidock
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

Light pole and welcome flag into downtown St. Johns. Photo by Rachel Bidock

Light pole and welcome flag into downtown St. Johns. Photo by Rachel Bidock

ST. JOHNS — According to the St.Johns Police Department Annual Report, St. Johns crime rate is at one of the lowest rates it has been in eight years, with a combined 198 index and non-index crimes.

Index and non-index crimes are defined in the report as either serious crimes such as murder, criminal sexual conduct and robbery or other crimes such as simple assault, bad checks, and forgery.

St. Johns Police Chief Kyle Knight explained how the department figures out the crime rate.

“We compare ourselves to ourselves, we don’t compare ourselves to other cities,” Knight said. “Our total crime went up about 9 percent from about a year ago but it is still the second lowest within the last 10 years.”

Although crime rates in 2014 were lower at 189 combined index and non-index crimes, the rate of crime in 2010 was 322.

Line graph for index and non-index crimes combined. Information provided by St. Johns Police Department.

Line graph for index and non-index crimes combined. Information provided by St. Johns Police Department.

When compared to the the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2014 Crime in the United States numbers, Michigan’s violent and property crimes per 100,000 residents was 2471.2 while St. Johns population was 7,983 and they had 94 violent and property crimes.

What makes a town safe? One major factor in keeping a town like St. Johns safe is communication explained Sociology Professor Raymond Jussaume Jr. at Michigan State University.

“One thing in a community like that is whether or not they have communication with other people in that community,” Jussaume said. “In other words they know that if their kids are walking around the community there are other people watching, and kind of keeping an eye out for their children.”

Michelle Thompson, a St. Johns resident and business owner, feels that her community does just that.

“I think we all look out for each other,” Thompson said. “The police are looking out for kids and I think they are doing a pretty good job.”

Looking out for the kids especially before and after school is important to Knight.

“Everyday when school gets out we put people on the road,” Knight said. “We patrol the city streets to make sure our kids get home safe.”

Not only do the St. Johns police patrol for children’s safety, they also look out for walkers and runners in the morning while it is still dark.

“The same people run and walk every morning, it was one of my priorities when I became chief that we were going to patrol those walk routes,” Knight said. “We just want to make sure they see us…if somebody was to try and do something they would see one of our patrol cars.”

St. Johns patrol car, photo by Rachel Bidock

St. Johns patrol car, photo by Rachel Bidock

Jussaume explained that having personal relationships and social interactions around a community can help reduce crime.

“In sociology we call it social networks,” Jussaume said. “Stronger social networks would be one factor that would help lower crime rates.”

Maintaining a strong relationship with the residents in the community is important to the department. All 10 of the department’s police officers are St. Johns High School graduates according to Knight, which makes them familiar with the residents they are constantly interacting with.

“I have been here all my life so I know a lot of people but between all of us, one of us knows somebody,” Knight said.

Billie Hill, a St. Johns resident, feels comfort in knowing that she can walk around town without being the victim of a crime.

“I have grown up here, it is just one of those places where you don’t have to worry about going out at night,” Hill said.

The numbers for this past year’s crime rate were low but Knight knows some areas still need work.

“Obviously we have room for improvement, we try and improve everyday,” Knight said. “I have raised our budget to hopefully get us there.”

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