Elizabeth City ranks 50th safest among North Carolina’s 57 mid-sized cities, according to a new crime survey from a New York-based business and research organization.
Hertford and Edenton rank 76th and 145th, respectively, among the state’s 174 small cities, according to AdvisorSmith’s survey of the state’s safest cities.
Area law enforcement officers shrugged off the study as flawed because it provides an inaccurate portrayal of crime statistics.
AdvisorSmith used data from the FBI’s most recent Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) to compile its survey. The FBI uses crime statistics reported by about 18,000 participating federal, state and local jurisdictions to compile the UCR.
AdvisorSmith only used data from law enforcement agencies in communities that had reported at least two months of crime statistics to the FBI, the survey’s methodology stated.
When Edenton Police Chief Henry King Jr. analyzed the survey, he said it reportedly used only the 2018 crime data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He said generally, crime analysis is used in comparison to a data set compared to several years to look at increase or decrease, for example.
Each month, Edenton PD sends all its crime data to the FBI same as it has been doing so for more than 30 years, statistics compiled under according to UCR guidelines.
King said the study excluded cities that reported less than two months of crime data.
King said for cities in which less than 12 months of crime data was reported, the crime levels were reportedly “scaled up proportionally to reflect a full year’s worth of crime.”
The Edenton Police Department does not estimate crime data, but instead reports crime data in real-time.
“Given these two noted exceptions, we do believe that the crime data in this study could slightly vary. With that said, we do completely accept the FBI as a reliable source, if all details were used within said study,” King said.
King said a careful review of EPD’s crime data (Murder, Rape, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Larceny, and Motor Vehicle Theft) for the past five years (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018) was conducted. He said when one looks at the past five years of crime data in Edenton, crime does fluctuate, in each category and for each year.
However, Edenton’s year to year comparison for the listed crimes about reveals that in 2014 to 2015 a -7.7 % reduction, 2015 to 2016 an 8.5% increase, 2016 to 2017 a -10.2 % reduction, 2017 to 2018 a -13.3 % reduction and 2018 to 2019 a -17.2 % reduction.
In its survey, AdvisorSmith issued Elizabeth City an overall crime score of 104.7. That’s compared to the top-ranked crime score of 3.1 for the town of Cornelius, in the same category. Henderson, with a crime score of 196.5, ranked 57th in the survey among mid-sized cities.
The report, which was released Thursday, Sept. 10, ranks cities in three categories according to population size. The categories included 17 large cities with populations of 50,000 or more; 57 midsized cities with populations between 10,000 to 50,000 residents; and 174 small cities, with populations below 10,000. No area towns were listed among the large cities, and Elizabeth City was the area’s only municipality in the midsized category.
Among the small cities, AdvisorSmith’s survey issued Hertford a crime score of 59.4, and Edenton a crime score of 110.
According to the survey, Elizabeth City averaged 21 incidents of violent crime and 53 incidents of property crime per 1,000 residents. Hertford averaged almost 10 incidents of violent crime and 16 incidents of property crime per 1,000 people. In Edenton, the numbers were nearly 20 incidents of violent crime and 31 incidents of property crime.
Cornelius, which is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Norman and north of Charlotte, had almost no violent or property crimes per 1,000 residents, according to the survey.
To compile a town or city’s individual crime score, AdvisorSmith applied a multiplier to serious crimes, such as murder and rape, and then added together the weighted crimes and adjusted the score according to the city’s population size, the survey’s methodology stated. The methodology did not identify the value of the multiplier.
Elizabeth City police Chief Eddie Buffaloe said his department has been participating in the FBI UCR on a monthly basis for three decades.
Buffaloe reviewed the AdvisorSmith survey and noted that it appears to have used only the 2018 crime data from the FBI. He also commented on how the survey excluded police departments that had reported less than two months of crime information.
“For cities in which less than 12 months of crime data was reported, the crime levels were reportedly scaled up proportionally to reflect a full year’s worth of crime,” Buffaloe, said, citing AdvisorSmith’s methodology. “The Elizabeth City Police Department does not estimate crime data, but instead reports crime data in real time. Given these two noted exceptions, we do believe that the crime data in this study could slightly vary. With that said, we do completely accept the FBI as a reliable source, if all details were used within (the) study.”
Buffaloe said his department reviewed the data for the years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 that it submitted for the crimes listed under Part I Crime Data of the FBI’s UCR. Those crimes include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
“When one looks at the past five years of crime data in Elizabeth City, crime does fluctuate, in each category and for each year,” the chief said. “When one looks at the mean/average of crime during these same five years, it reflects there was a total of 912.2 crimes (Part I crimes only) reported yearly to the Elizabeth City Police Department.
“Out of the 912.2 mean/average crimes reported yearly, the mean/average for violent crimes reported was 107.2 and the mean/average for property crimes reported was 805.2,” Buffaloe continued. “Therefore, if looking at crime trends over a five-year period in Elizabeth City, violent crime represents approximately 18 percent of total crimes reported and property crime represents approximately 89 percent of total crimes reported. This has reportedly been the trend in Elizabeth City.”
There are several factors that lend to fluctuate in crime trends. Buffaloe noted the opioid epidemic has taken a toll on Elizabeth City’s crime rates.
“The opioid epidemic has been predominately present during the five years reflected in our internal review,” he said.
Buffaloe, who also is serving as the city’s interim city manager, said the ECPD is taking steps to reduce violent crimes.
“Our main goal is to decrease crime and the fear of crime in our communities,” Buffaloe said. “One notable area we have worked on in the past two years is to apply for the Project Safe Neighborhood grant funding from the (U.S.) Department of Justice, which provides funding to agencies for the purpose of combating violent crimes.”
The city applied with a regional approach in mind, seeking enough funding to include Camden, Chowan, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, he said.
“We have been awarded the Project Safe Neighborhood grants for 2018 and 2019, and our 2020 grant application is currently pending,” Buffaloe said.
Hertford police Chief Dennis Brown responded to the survey first by stating that as the county’s governmental seat and economic engine, crime will inevitably occur in Hertford. His police force is trained and is serious about enforcing laws to make Hertford a safe place for residents to call home, he said.
Brown believes AdvisorSmith’s ranking of Hertford is actually an indication of the efforts and progress his department has made toward addressing crime.
“We are ranked at 76 in the study provided, but compare better than other communities our size in northeastern North Carolina,” he said. “I believe this highlights the great accomplishments our staff is achieving with our commitment to community policing and our agency’s adoption of the standards established in 21st century policing philosophy. But we work best when partnering with our residents, business, governing board and other law enforcement agencies.”
To view the entire AdvisorSmith report, visit online at https://advisorsmith.com/data/safest-cities-in-north-carolina/. To learn more about how the FBI collects and uses crime data to compile its Uniform Crime Reports, visit online at https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/ucr.