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NATION Mercer County ranks 18th in study of safest locations

Friday, December 5, 2003

Youngstown placed 48th in the ranking of America's most dangerous cities.
SHARON, Pa. -- Mercer County is the 18th-safest place in the nation, according to a research firm's study of FBI crime statistics for 2002, and two local officials say they aren't surprised.
"Basically, we've always had a low crime rate," said Edward Stanton, Hermitage police chief. For the most part, "It's a rural county. It's basically a pretty safe place to live."
The county has a large elderly population, and relatively few crimes are committed by people in that age group, he added.
Morgan Quitno Press of Lawrence, Kan., based the rankings on FBI data in six basic crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. Regions with populations of 75,000 or more were included in the rankings. Mercer County has a population of about 120,000.
"In Hermitage, we've been very fortunate," Stanton said. "We haven't had a murder in five or six years. We have very few armed robberies."
Stepped up police patrols in the last two years in the Weed & amp; Seed area, which includes parts of Sharon and Farrell, may have contributed to a drop in crime in that area, said Sharon Police Capt. Mathew McComb. "There's been a lot of proactive police work being done in those areas," he said.
Weed & amp; Seed is a state-sponsored program of stepped-up law enforcement and community activities designed to reduce crime and improve quality of life in designated Weed and Seed neighborhoods.
The Sharon metropolitan area includes all of Mercer County.
"It does not surprise me that Mercer County would be rated as having a low crime rate," said Jim Epstein, county district attorney, who has spent nearly 28 years combined as an assistant DA and then as DA in Mercer County. The above categories of crime have declined since he began his prosecutorial career in the county in the mid-1970s, Epstein said.
"They have consistently gone down and stayed at a level that is probably not reducible by law enforcement," Epstein observed.
The report compares violent crime in 358 cities.
Youngstown ranked 48th in the list of most dangerous cities, with one violent crime for every 1,162 people, according to the Morgan Quinto Web site.
Youngstown ranked seventh in the murder category.
Spontaneous crimes
Police can improve a community's quality of life through aggressive patrols, community policing, and effective investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, Epstein said. If the number of people carrying weapons can be reduced, the number of deaths and serious injuries from spontaneous crimes of passion can be reduced, he added.
Some crimes of passion, however, will always be committed, he explained.
Although most serious crimes have been on the decline, the number of reported rapes has increased since the 1970s due to a legal climate that has encouraged more victims to come forward, Epstein said.
Contributing to this improved climate for victims have been the development of rape crisis centers, changes in public attitudes and evidence rules that have become more favorable to victims when cases go to trial, he said.
Safest areas
The State College region has been ranked by the research firm as the safest of Pennsylvania's 14 metropolitan areas and the ninth safest of 281 such regions nationwide.
The safe ranking -- placing the State College area between No. 8 Eau Claire, Wis., and No. 10 Bismarck, N.D. -- is no surprise, State College police Sgt. John Wilson said.
"It does not surprise me that we'd be ranked as a very safe place to live," Wilson said. "Our levels of violent crimes have always been very low. We do, on the other hand, have a lot of nuisance crimes, but generally, this is a very safe area to live."
The Bangor, Maine, metropolitan area was ranked safest, and the two Connecticut areas of Danbury and Stamford-Norwalk were the only other two eastern metropolitan areas that came in ahead of the State College area.
Another region in Pennsylvania -- the Williamsport metropolitan area -- came in 20th safest. None of the other 11 metropolitan regions in Pennsylvania made either the safest 25 or the most dangerous 25 lists.
The report calls Amherst, N.Y., the nation's safest city, followed by Brick Township, N.J.; Mission Viejo, Calif.; Simi Valley, Calif.; and Cary, N.C. It lists Detroit as the most dangerous city, followed by St. Louis, Mo.\; Atlanta, Ga.; Camden, N.J.; and Washington, D.C.
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