By Alana Easterling
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
Some things are just not adding up: when it comes to crime, Lansing residents are saying one thing, while data is saying another.
Crime rate data for Lansing displays a decrease in some crime rates, but some Lansing residents feel that crimes rates haven’t decreased, but have gotten worse.
Lansing crime rate data shows that the crime rates in Lansing have fluctuated since 2002, but they have indeed decreased since then as well. In 2007 there were 14.1 murders for every 100,000 residents, and just six years later in 2013, that rated decreased by half to 7 murders for every 100,000 residents.
Though statistics and those behind the scenes say crime has decreased, some Lansing residents feel otherwise. Bruce Williams, a Lansing resident of 10 years and father of three, says himself and people he knows have been victims of shootings from breaking and entering, auto thefts, and robberies. Williams accuses the bored youth.
“These kids don’t have anything to do, therefore they’re getting into trouble,” said Williams. “When I first moved to Lansing, it was much safer, and you didn’t hear about much crime. That’s no longer the case.”
“Just last week, I know a young lady that got her car broken into, and the knuckle heads took her laptop and phone accessories,” he said.
According to Community Police Officer Brian Whitsitt, crime rates will statistically fluctuate according to how they are reported. Whitsitt has been an officer for the Lansing Police Department (LPD) for almost 21 years, and has served as a community neighborhood officer for four years. Whitsitt acknowledges the fact that his staff stays busy, but he feels there isn’t a major difference that he recognizes.
“I think a lot of the fluctuation in the stats come from the way the crimes are reported,” says Whitsitt. “Several crimes can be reported as one crime, and you would have to be reported as such. For example, people will report a breaking and entering, but in order for it to be considered that, the alleged criminals would have to have had intent to take something or harm someone. It depends on the value of the laws, and the stipulations of each crime.”
“We do stay busy, I cannot lie,” Whitsitt continues while chuckling. “But I’ve been busy since I started the job. No day is the same as the one before.”
Williams admits that the police does have a powerful presence, but this is temporary.
“When the police comes around, things simmer down naturally, but the police aren’t around 24/7,” said Williams.
Other Lansing residents do not believe it’s the youth that is committing the crimes, but are adamant about the fact that crime indeed has increased in Lansing.
“About two or three weeks ago a customer that comes in often got shot and killed, but that wasn’t put on the news,” said Matthew Ellis. Ellis is a Lansing native who works as a Customer Account Representative at Verizon wireless store.
“I don’t know if it’s that they’re telling officials to feed us lies saying that the rates are decreasing, and that Lansing is indeed still safe, or if they’re picking and choosing what they’re reporting on the news, and submitting to their ‘data.’ Either way, I know as a regular, unbiased Lansing native, things are definitely getting worse around here,” Ellis said.
Mahesh Nalla, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, says that overall statistics show a decrease in the crime in Lansing, but there are some branches of crime that have increased as well.
”Robbery, burglaries, and theft all show a downward trend over the last 10-15 years, but murder has gone up from 7 to 8.8 (per 100,000 residents), and physical assaults have gone up as well,” Nalla said.
Although statistics prove there to be a decrease in crime rates, Nalla feels that the residents’ concerns and allegations should not only be taken a bit more seriously, but looked into as well.
“In some cases, fear of victimization of crimes are greater than the actual reality of those crimes in a city, but in this case, residents perceptions are a reality, whether the police are aware or not. This shouldn’t be taken lightly,” said Nalla.
“It is the responsibility of city officers to ensure the safety and comfortability of it residents, and if this is not being done, despite what data shows, the police need to do something about it,” Nalla said.
Whitsitt suggested a website for Lansing residents, and anyone else who were interested to visit crime mapping. This website is a resource ran by the LPD for residents to keep track of the latest crimes in their area.