Crime Statistics in Rochester (part 1 of 2)

In anticipation of the upcoming MPR forum on crime and perceptions, I requested some crime statistics from Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson. He was kind enough to send me some crime data and analysis.  In crime, there is perception and reality.  Both are important in our community.  The reality is that we are a safer city today than we were 35 years ago, though it may not feel that way.

As with any statistic, numbers are far from perfect and there are always figures that one might feel are miscategorized.  As someone who is a statistics junkie, I try to find ways to communicate numbers in a way that is both fair and easy to understand.  If I could offer one visual to convey what has happened since 1977 it would be this:

  • In 1977, on average a citizen in Rochester would expect to be a victim of serious crime every 10.0 years.
  • In 2010, on average a citizen in Rochester would expect to be a victim of serious crime every 15.9 years.

This post (the first of my two posts) deals the real numbers and how public safety is improving in Rochester (as it is nation wide).  The 2nd post will deal with some more subjective measures and how public safety is influencing our budgets.  I will also give brief mention to some recent changes in how we are addressing some new challenges.

Here is the memo that I received from Chief Peterson (there were a few terms that not everyone will understand so I tried to link to explanations):

While our population has nearly doubled since 1975, we have actually experienced a decline in crime numbers:

This graph represents the total number of serious crimes as defined by the FBI reported to police each year since 1975. Serious crimes, (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny, burglary, auto theft and arson), declined from 3,425 in 1975 to 3,099 in 2009. These numbers are not adjusted for population.  Data available through July of 2010 indicates a further decline in serious crime of 18.5% compared to the same period in 2009.

The crime rate, that is, the number of crimes reported per 100,000 population is reflected in the following graph:

In comparison to cities of similar size, (according to FBI 2009 data), the national average for serious crime is 49% higher than Rochester. Property crime is 43% higher than Rochester and violent crime 120% higher:

Clearance rates for serious crimes have increased significantly since the 1970’s. In 1975 we cleared 16% of serious crimes. That number increased to average about 28% for the next few decades:

In 2008 the City Council approved the formation of a Community Service Officer program designed to reduce costs while allowing officers to focus on more serious crime issues. As a result, clearance rates for serious crimes, (crimes cleared by arrest) rose to an unprecedented 36%: (Clearance rates for less serious crimes are typically higher, averaging 45-50%, due to the nature of the incidents reported.)

This rate is significantly higher than the national average of 21%. (2009 FBI data for similar sized cities)

During the same time period, response times for emergency calls also improved significantly. Response times for priority one calls dropped from 1 minute 55 seconds to 1 minute and 14 seconds:

This is far below the national average of 9 to 11 minutes reported in most major cities and is of critical importance, not only to crime victims, but also to our defibrillation program. This program has recorded the highest success rate for the treatment of sudden cardiac arrest anywhere in the world. (52% compared to 5 to 7% nationally.)

Please let me know if you have any questions or need any additional information.


  1. If advertised well and the word gets out, the MPR/Post-bulletin event on Feb 1 should definitely shed some light and clarity on whether the public sentiment echoes the above statistics or not.

    What will the conversation be about?

    If little to no people show up, this would almost mean that all is well with the safety and that issues are well managed in Rochester.

    Only time will tell. . .

  2. Michael I am submitting separately court statistics for 2000-2010. They show stabilizing of serious crime since 2007, and actual declines in some categories. I am not able to load them in your comment section.

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