This year, the city of Anderson was named to the list of the safest cities in Indiana according to the National Council for Home Safety and Security. Anderson is ranked 43 of the 58 cities mentioned. Last year, Anderson was omitted from the list.
“Although we are always trying to improve the safety of our city, cracking the top 50 safest cities in Indiana is a big deal for the city of Anderson,” said Media Affairs Director and Public Information Officer, Samantha Pancol, of the Mayor’s Office.
To determine the safest cities in Indiana, the NCHSS reviewed the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics as well as their own population data and internal research. The most recent UCR is from 2016. Cities that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI and cities with populations under 10,000 were eliminated from the list.
The criteria used in the rankings are based on violent and property crimes. Crimes that are deemed violent consist of aggravated assault, murder, rape and robbery. Property crimes include burglary, arson, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft. Drug crimes are not included in the statistics from UCRs.
On average, 6.66 violent crimes are committed per 1,000 people per year in the state of Indiana. The city of Anderson came in under that average at 4.35 violent crimes per 1,000 people. However, it was over the average in property crimes at 41.15 per 1,000 people, compared to the state average of 37.68.
According to the NCHSS, Indiana falls near the average rate for the United States in overall safety.
Although the city of Anderson has moved up in the rankings of safest cities in Indiana, both property and violent crime numbers have increased from 2015 to 2016. In 2015, the UCR reported 233 violent crimes to 240 in 2016. The property crime numbers from 2015 were 2,159, compared to 2016’s report of 2,294.
According to Major Joel Sandefur of the Anderson Police Department, the new administration under Chief Tony Watters has been more aggressive in its policing efforts than the previous administration.
“If you have a policing plan that is more aggressive, that typically means increased arrests,” said Sandefur. “That also means that your crime statistics are going to go up, but hopefully that will have a positive effect on the community by removing that criminal element, we should see crime begin to decrease.”
Officers with the Anderson University Police Department have even been involved in this more aggressive approach. According to AUPD’s Chief, Rick Garrett, they receive between 10 and 15 calls per week from APD on average.
“If we get a call from APD we go,” said Garrett. “We try to stay close to campus, but if it’s an extreme emergency we’ll go where they need us. We want to help them out in any way we can.”
Since taking office in 2016, the Watters administration has instituted the Burlgary Theft Unit. This unit works directly with the Criminal Intelligence Unit, and together they analyze information gathered by officers and detectives in order to direct policing efforts.
According to APD’s Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Regina Leonard, there is some debate on
the accuracy of the FBI’s UCRs.
“Those numbers are real, but they’re not,” said Leonard. “Their numbers are reported based on the ‘highest crime.’ You could have someone who is arrested and charged with theft, robbery and battery but the robbery is the only one that they count. Our BTU takes all of the crimes into consideration to analyzes each one.”
Through these efforts, the police department has been able to recognize trends and has begun focusing their efforts on targeting specific areas that see increased activity. By analyzing the reports, they can see where and when a majority of these crimes are committed and can determine which areas of the city need the most attention from officers.
Leonard believes this new unit might be responsible for the amount of property crime arrests
made in 2016.
“We believe as a result [of the BTU], the 2017 statistics for burglary and theft have dramatically dropped in this past year,” said Leonard. “Our annual report for 2017 just came out. In 2016, we had 520 burglaries. In 2017, we dropped to 410. No one can predict crimes, but there are ways that we can track trends and reports to find problem areas and we’ve seen the numbers go down.”
Although the city of Anderson has been able to move up at least seven spots in the last year, there are still areas that can be improved.
Garrett sees hiring more police officers to patrol the city and having more community involvement as areas for improvement in city safety.
APD swore in three new officers within the last year. AU senior Courtney Skinner is among the newest officers at APD and is in the middle of the field training program. According to Sandefur, officers are hired as needed and that number can be a bit of a “moving target.” APD is budgeted for 112 officers, but is currently below that number.
Sandefur agrees that more community involvement is necessary in improving the overall safety of the city.
“We want to bridge that gap,” said Sandefur. “If the public feels they can’t trust us, they aren’t going to feel comfortable reporting crimes or that they can work with us. That partnership [with the community] is vital to our mission success because at the end of the day it’s about public safety.”