Why This Measure?
Violent crime includes homicide (willful, non-negligent killing), rape (forcibly, and of a female only, including both sexual assaults and attempts by force), aggravated assault (attack with intent to inflict severe bodily injury), and any robbery involving force or threat of force. Many social and personal factors tie into any violent crime, most notably abuse of alcohol and other drugs. The crime rate is a leading concern when people think about quality of life in a community. Can we leave our doors unlocked? Are the children safe walking to school? Public perception of crime rates is not always accurate. Crime makes compelling news stories, which can build community fear that is simply not justified by actual data.
Reported Violent Crime in Missoula County
Source: Crime in Montana 1996, Montana Board of Crime Control
Trend Worse Data Rating Availablevvv Reliablevv Relevantvvv
The number of violent crimes in Missoula County has increased over the past few years. In 1998, our violent crime rate (265/100,000 people) was worse than the state as a whole (224/100,000) and second highest of the larger Missoula counties (Crime In Montana, 1998). Still our numbers are less than half of the national rate of 566/100,000. It is, however, also worth remembering that many rapes go unreported.
Anytime we use crime statistics as indicators, we are measuring both the number of crimes reported and the emphasis local law enforcement places on that particular type of crime. Many social and environmental factors influence the type and volume of crimes reported, including the communitys density, size, and demographics, the strength of law enforcement agencies, and public and judicial attitudes toward laws and their enforcement. Comparison with state rates depend on the quality of reporting which still varies from community to community.
A Comparison of Violent Crime Rates, 1998
Per 100,000 persons*
* Crime rates are based on populations as estimated by each reporting jurisdiction. If a jurisdiction does not report its crimes in a given year, the local population is omitted from that years comprehensive statistics.
Source: Calculated by MCCHD Health Promotion Division from data supplied by the MT Board of Crime Control.
City Versus County-Only Statistics
Comparison of Violent Crime by Jurisdiction
Missoula City Police v. Missoula County Sheriff
Aggravated Assault City
Aggravated Assault - County
Source: Missoula Police Dept., Missoula County Sheriffs Dept., May 2000
"Homicide rates in the U.S. far exceed those in any other industrialized nation. For other violent crimes, rates in the U.S. are among the worlds highest and substantially exceed rates in Canada, our nearest neighbor in terms of geography, culture, and crime reporting. Among 16 industrialized countries surveyed in 1988, the U.S. had the highest prevalence rates for serious sexual assaults and for all other assaults including threats of physical harm." (Understanding and Preventing Violence 1993)
The overall crime rate counts burglary, larceny, and car theft along with the violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault). These crimes are used because of their serious nature, the frequency of occurrence, and the reliability of reporting. In 1998, Missoula Countys overall crime rate was 5,621 per 100,000 people, compared to 4,799 in the state (Crime in Montana) and 4,616 nationally (MT Board of Crime Control). Our rate is lower than either Cascade or Yellowstone counties. What also needs stating is that larceny, defined by Montana law as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of the property of another, accounts for 80 percent of Montanas index (serious) crimes in 1998 (79 percent in 1997) (Crime in Montana).
While most analysis is based on the above seven crimes (index crimes), the majority of criminal activity affecting Missoula area residents are more likely to be offenses such as vandalism, traffic concerns, etc. (Pete Lawrenson, Missoula Police Dept.).
1998 homicide rates: Missoula County 4/100,000 persons; national rate is 6/100,000 (MT Board of Crime Control); the rate for the state of Montana is 2/100,000 (Crime in Montana). For the last five years, our homicide rate has been 5/100,000. Nationally, 42% of murders take place during arguments, and 78% of murder victims are killed by someone they know. (FBI, Crime in the United States 1993)
Homicide in Missoula County
Sources: Missoula Police Department & Missoula County Sheriffs Dept.
Rape in Missoula County
Source: Missoula City Police; Missoula County Sheriffs, May 2000
Aggravated Assault in Missoula County
Source: Missoula City Police; Missoula County Sheriffs, May 2000
A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than it is to be used in self-defense. Using a gun is the easiest and fastest way to kill someone. Guns are five times more deadly than knives. A person does not need to be intent on homicide or even particularly angry to kill with a gun. A person with a gun does not have to struggle with the victim, or even touch or get near the victim, to kill him or her. (Firearm Facts, Childrens Safety Network)
Between 1979-1997, gunfire killed nearly 80,000 children and teens in the United States; an additional 320,000 children were wounded. Children under fifteen are twelve times more likely to die from gunfire than children in 25 other industrialized countries combined.
Montana Law provides for the fair and proper treatment of victims in the criminal justice system. Victims of crime have basic rights that are protected by law. Accordingly, the Missoula Victim Assistance Program, administered by the Office of Planning & Grants, provides advocacy services to victims of violent personal crime in Missoula. The program is funded by grants from the Montana Board of Crime Control, the OJP stop Violence Against Women Office, and local government support.
Crime Victims Advocates are available in the City and County Attorneys Offices and the Rural Outreach (SSTEP) Office in Seeley Lake to advocate on behalf of victims with all facets of the criminal justice system. Advocates build relationships with victims by providing support and information, safety planning, crisis counseling, notification of victims rights, accompaniment to court proceedings, and helping with the process of filing for orders of protection. Advocates explain criminal justice procedures, accompany victims to make police reports and have pictures taken, and to witness statements. A new community education effort to provide information to bystanders or witnesses of domestic violence about what is helpful to victims, how to intervene with perpetrators, how to keep victims safe, and how to hold offenders accountable has begun recently. The program also does outreach to "under-served" communities to educate about domestic violence, to do community organizing against violence, and to improve access to the criminal justice system. To date, many brochures and handouts about domestic violence and child abuse have been translated into Hmong and Russian by staff of the Refugee Assistance Center.
Advocates in the City Attorneys Office at 435 Ryman in Missoula (523-4630) are available to provide assistance with orders of protection and advocacy for cases prosecuted by the City Attorney. Advocates in the County Attorneys Office at 200 W. Broadway in Missoula (523-4840) are available to provide assistance with cases prosecuted by the County Attorneys Office. Rural Advocates in the SSTEP Program in Seeley Lake (677-3177) are available to assist rural victims.
In Fiscal Year 1999, the three Crime Victims Advocates, three CVA Assistants, 10 volunteer advocates (at any given time), and one intern provided services to 2,549 primary and secondary victims in Missoula City and County. Assistance with obtaining a temporary order of protection was provided to 420 victims, more than half of whom were also represented by a pro bono attorney. Crisis counseling was provided to 424 victims, information and referral to 1,424, assistance with Victims Compensation to 1,878, and extended criminal justice system support and advocacy was provided to 518 victims.
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