Study: Victoria is relatively unsafe

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Dec. 23, 2017 at 9:06 p.m.
Updated Dec. 24, 2017 at 3:46 p.m.

Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig speaks at a news conference about an officer-involved shooting in 2016.

Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig speaks at a news conference about an officer-involved shooting in 2016.   Savannah Blake for The Victoria Advocate

A new study ranks Victoria at the bottom third of a list of safest Texas cities with a population of at least 50,000.

But Police Chief J.J. Craig said it is not particularly helpful to make such comparisons between cities - except to learn from one another about how to best fight crime.

Victoria is the 42nd safest out of 65 cities, according to safehome.org, the author of the study.

Safehome.org determined this by analyzing a report the Victoria Police Department submitted to the FBI in 2014 and 2015, the uniform crime report, which shows how many and what types of crimes occurred; the number of police officers compared to the population; and data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau included population density, population trends, the unemployment rate, the median income and the education level.

Safehome.org then gave each a different percentage weight to determine Victoria's "safety score," which was 71.24. Those with a score of 100 were least safe. Safehome.org determined Lubbock was the least safe, while Flower Mound was the safest.

In determining the safety score, Safehome.org assigned more weight to the rate at which violent crime occurred and the least amount of weight to socioeconomic factors that may drive crime trends in the city, such as the youth population, the unemployment rate and education level. The website said it assigned weights according to what the FBI considered serious and what a "large 2016 study by Chapman University" determined was society's fear.

Craig said some experts would give more weight to those latter factors than safehome.org did in this study.

"It's very difficult to compare Victoria to other cities. It's not going to be apples to apples," he said.

He also said the Victoria Police Department uses the National Incident-Based Reporting System when reporting crime in Victoria to the FBI. It is more detailed than the unified crime report and includes attempted crimes, which Craig thinks could have made Victoria appear less safe compared to other cities if safehome.org used the data in its analysis.

This is the first time safehome.org has ranked the safest cities in Texas with a population of at least 50,000, Thomas Snyder, who does community relations for the website, wrote via email.

He wrote safehome.org can't yet draw any conclusions from it.

"We don't know enough about each city to make any conclusions, but maybe we will next year when we do this again and compare it with this year's study," Snyder wrote.

The most persistent crime in Victoria is also a preventable one: vehicle burglary, Craig said.

More than half of vehicle burglaries which happen because the vehicle is unlocked, he said.

Another way to curb crime is to report suspicious behavior.

"Some of the best possible cases we've had in the past couple of years have been when residents call us and say, 'Hey, this doesn't look right.' We have responded and found people who have been involved in multiple burglaries, so I can't emphasize enough how important that is," Craig said.

The police department is also making Victoria a safe place to live by recruiting officers, hiring a data analyst to give those officers timely reports so they can focus on where crime is occurring most and having officers engage with the community on and offline, Craig said.

"Even when experiencing severe shortages, we didn't lower our standards when hiring people, and I'm proud of that fact," Craig said.

He said the police department also makes getting drunken drivers off the road a priority. It received a grant from TxDOT that allows officers to work overtime to testify in court about it.

"We just had an officer that was named officer of the quarter based largely on her DWI enforcement activity," Craig said.


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