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Worthington achieves lowest crime rate among region’s similar-sized cities

WORTHINGTON — In 2017, Worthington had the lowest crime rate among comparably sized southern Minnesota cities and the lowest in the agency’s recent history, a recently released report states.

According to a uniform crime report released in July by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Worthington experienced a crime rate of 3,782 per 100,000 inhabitants.

“The low Worthington crime rate is a good indication of how safe our city is and how great a place it is to raise a family,” Worthington Police Chief Troy Appel said.  

The report, which tracks an agency’s response to crimes that run the gamut from murder to disorderly conduct, records how many statutorily classified crimes a city’s law enforcement agency investigates.

According to the report, in 2017, Worthington police officers responded to — and a subsequent investigation was initiated on — 499 crimes. Theft, driving under the influence, drug abuse, assault and vandalism topped the department’s heaviest crime load in 2017.

Of all recorded crimes, the department cleared 289. Therefore, the WPD had a crime clearance rate of 58 percent in 2017, which is above the statewide average of 47 percent.

Appel said the department’s clearance rate has historically been consistent, and 2017 is no different.

“We like to stay around that 60 percent range,” he said. “We like to see more than that, but we need to be realistic. Some cases are very difficult to solve, and some are impossible.”

Other comparably sized cities’ crime rates per 100,000 inhabitants and its police department’s clearance rate include: St. Peter, 4,848, 60 percent; Marshall, 6,537, 74 percent; Fairmont, 9,415, 56 percent; Willmar, 7,053, 62 percent; and New Ulm, 7,037, 72 percent.  

Appel said the annual uniform crime report is a good statistical tool for the department to track its consistency in concluding investigations. However, as the FBI warns, an agency’s crime clearance rate is not designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a department.

A clearance, Appel explains, means that an investigation cannot yield any further results. The outcome of a majority of the investigations deemed cleared is an arrest or citation, Appel said.

According to archived BCA uniform crime reports, Worthington’s crime rate in 2017 is the lowest since at least 2009.

While it’s difficult to measure what has reduced the crime rate as of late, Appel would guess it’s a combination between the department’s increased involvement in community social activities and community-strengthening initiatives, as well as the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force.

Appel said nearly every crime law enforcement responds to is somehow intertwined with drugs, which he said opens the door for BRDTF members to investigate.

“People make very poor decisions when they’re on drugs or involved in the drug trade,” he said.

While a variety of cultures, socioeconomic vitality and department resources are all variables that can affect a region’s crime and clearance rates, Appel said this report provides the department and city validation in how it prevents and reacts to crime.

“This is confirmation of what a great staff can accomplish for a city, and we couldn’t do that without the support of the city council,” he said. “I think Worthington can be proud, as we’ve all worked together to make it what it is.”

City Administrator Steve Robinson applauded the various community and professional players that have a role in keeping the community a safe place to live.

“The numbers have been consistent over the past several years, owing to the diligence of our officers, dispatchers and civilian staff and their work with community leaders in one of the most diverse cities in Minnesota,” Robinson said.