Recent events have left many Columbia residents wondering if the city, and even the university, is safe. Crime reports fill the evening news and sirens can be heard nearly around the clock. However, the numbers do not lie. Crime rates in Columbia are trending downwards.
Moving to Columbia was an easy decision for me. There was no doubt in my mind that this was a great city to be in. I had not heard of any major crimes in the past, so crime rate was never an issue for me. When I got here though, it seemed that almost every night the sirens were blaring full blast. There were reports of attempted rape on campus, robberies and shootings. I was beginning to think that crime was, in fact, a major issue in Columbia.
This thought reentered my mind many times throughout the past month. Residents of Columbia heard about shootings, armed robberies and bomb threats. An officer-involved shooting was reported in Hitt Street garage, on campus, which triggered the MU Alert system. Not long after, shootings were reported near campus, along with a bomb threat that caused the evacuation of the Student Center and Memorial Union.
These incidences have also been shrouded in controversy. While the majority of students rely on MU Alerts for information regarding the safety status of campus, the system seemed to falter during the Hitt Street incident. Students were not notified of the elevating situation on campus until 45 minutes after the suspect had been shot and pronounced dead. Students voiced their outrage towards the system on many social media sites. The university has since vowed to reevaluate the standards of their alert system.
While crime does seem to be a problem in the city, police reports show the crime rate is going down in almost every category. According to the Columbia Police Department, every violent and property crime category is decreasing except two: robbery and burglary.
The numbers have been on a downhill slide since 2011. While Columbia’s population has increased, violent crimes have decreased by 173 crimes since 2011. Property crimes have also decreased by 276 crimes in this time. This can only mean one thing: police forces in and around Columbia are stepping up and taking a real stand against crime. Columbia is not only served by the Columbia Police Department, but also the Missouri Highway Patrol and MU Campus Police.
I will admit that I initially believed the crime rate had gone up in the past year. However, after reviewing the statistics provided by the police department, I feel a little more at ease. Their website even features an entire section devoted to crime prevention and safety tips. Public education about how to stay safe in various situations seems to be high on the priority list of CPD. The officers are obviously doing their jobs and protecting the citizens of Columbia, and we can thank them graciously for that.