Tompkins Crime Down in 2014, Aligns with National Trend

DECEMBER 9, 2015
BY ALYSSA GILLIAM

ITHACA, N.Y. — Fewer crimes overall were committed in Tompkins County in 2014 than in 2013, according to a report from the state, though the number of rape and robbery cases increased.

According to the 2014 New York State Crime Report, Tompkins County has seen a 10.3 percent drop in reported crime from 2013 to 2014.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services used seven crime categories as indicators of statewide crime trends: “violent crimes” which includes murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; and “property crimes” of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

In Tompkins, assaults fell by about 20 percent, larcenies by 13 percent and vehicle thefts by 5 percent.

But rapes and robberies were up in the county, by 15 percent (from 13 to 15) and 17 percent (from 29 to 34), respectively.

Overall, the number of total crimes fell from 2,902 to 2,603 in Tompkins, and the number of violent crimes fell from 109 to 103.

Comparison to Overall Counties

Tompkins County has seen a more significant decrease in crime than some of its neighboring counties. Cayuga County’s data showed that reported crime had actually increased by 2.9 percent in 2014. Cayuga, Chemung and Seneca Counties all saw a rise in motor vehicle theft, which slightly raised their overall crime report totals. Cortland County, on the other hand, had a 34 percent decline in crime over the course of a year.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services reported that in 2014 New York State experienced the lowest total of reported crimes recorded since the state started tracking annual data in 1975. There were 409,386 crimes were reported in the state throughout the year, which was 80,014 fewer crimes than were reported a decade ago in 2005. According to the Federal Bureau for Investigation, the nationwide 2014 estimated violent crime total was 16.2 percent below the 2005 level.

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Dr. Kevin Wolff, an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explained that crime has been decreasing dramatically across the United States since the early 1990s. While the Division of Criminal Justice Services called the county and statewide reduction of crime “significant,” Wolff was not as convinced.

“Given the recent trends, I’m not all that surprised to hear that rates of crime continue to fall. I would be careful, however, to say that these declines are significant. Small decreases in crime can equate to large percentage declines. The declines in the early 1990s were much, much larger in terms of the raw numbers compared to declines in recent years,” Wolff said.

Wolff said that the reasons for an area’s decreased rates of crime are associated with many characteristics. In Tompkins County, factors such as population structure, poverty, unemployment, divorce rates, alcohol consumption, drug market activity, and prison admissions can all impact crime rates. The Crime Report also emphasized the increase in the state’s population on their data. New York State has about 490,000 more residents than it had in 2005. A combination of all these factors has led to the historically low crime rates being reported.

Wolff could not conclusively say whether he thought crime rates for New York State or Tompkins County would continue to drop in the coming years because of the complexity of the aspects that factor into crime rates.

“It will become increasingly important to understand how all these events impact rates of crime across the country. Who is victimized? Who is perpetrating these crimes? And how might we prevent it?” said Wolff.

The Ithaca Voice, 2015