POCATELLO — A new ranking has concluded Pocatello is the most dangerous city in Idaho.
The report by 24/7 Wall St., which is a Delaware corporation that runs a financial news and opinion company with content delivered over the internet, analyzed violent crimes in about 2,000 U.S. cities, covered in the FBI’s 2017 Uniform Crime Report.
Announced by USA Today on Wednesday, the report concluded that Pocatello had 443 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2017, compared with the statewide average of 226 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Violent crimes the report considered included murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Property crimes including burglary, larceny, motor vehicle thefts and arson were also considered. The rankings did not cover cities with fewer than 20,000 people.
It’s worth noting that Pocatello’s violent crime rate, while apparently high by Idaho standards, paled in comparison with some other U.S. communities. In Anniston, Alabama, for example, the report found there were 3,434 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Pocatello’s rate is also well below the statewide averages of many other states. Alaska, for example, had a state average of 829 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
Another report made from the same data set found Idaho Falls was the top city in Idaho for the increase in crime rate from 2012 through 2017. Violent crime in Idaho Falls reportedly increased by 45.5 percent during that period, due in large part to a 64.5 percent increase in the aggravated assault rate, according to a USA Today report published on Feb. 28, based on a 24/7 Wall St. analysis.
Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen remains firm in his belief that Eastern Idaho is a safe region, but he admits he’s concerned by the report on Pocatello.
“I know by my jail population that crimes are getting more serious, and it’s not just all male,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen noted Bannock County was ranked among the top 15 places nationally for the infiltration of drugs and has been classified as a high-intensity drug trafficking area. He believes drugs are at the root of many of the county’s violent crimes, and the community is on the right path toward addressing the problem by collaborating with other area agencies. He said the county has also made strides in addressing sex crimes through collaboration.
“We are growing, and as we grow we’re going to get what comes,” Nielsen said.
The sheriff believes it’s also in the community’s favor that local residents are generally trusting of law enforcement and willing to share tips with police.
Logan McDougall, spokesman with the city of Pocatello, doesn’t put much stock in the numbers, convinced they’ve been taken out of context.
“When reading these rankings, readers need to view them skeptically, and they should always look into the methodology,” McDougall said. “In this case, the study’s author used data from a single year, 2017, compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A misleading picture can be painted when using one data point.”
Indeed, the FBI makes a similar argument about the proper use of its statistics and advises against using its data for rankings. The FBI warns that “incomplete analyses have often created misleading perceptions which adversely affect geographic entities and their residents.”
“Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place,” the FBI writes.
McDougall believes the value in the report is that it may spur discussions about what works well in Pocatello and opportunities for improvement.