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Crime statistics soar in Waco

March 4, 1997

By Martha Roberts

Lariat Reporter

While other Texas cities are enjoying a decrease in crime, Waco violent crime statistics have gone 'out the ceiling,' according to a report in The Abilene Reporter-News on 1996 crime index figures.

According to Friday's article, there were 5,973 criminal cases in Abilene in 1996, while the Waco crime index was nearly double that at 11,554 cases. The report compared crime rates in Texas cities with populations just above or below 100,000.

The crime index compares figures for such offenses as murder, robbery, rape, assault and theft.

At the University there was a slight increase in crime during the 1995-96 fiscal year, but according to Chief Jim Doak of the Baylor Department of Public Safety, the University's crime index has remained fairly steady for the past few years.

'It's been almost dead even for the past two years,' Doak said. '[The Baylor campus] is probably the safest area to be in the county.'

Violent crimes at the University in 1995-96 increased nearly 9 percent over 1994-95 but were still 8 percent lower than in 1993-94, according to Doak.

Det. Larry Murphy of the Waco Police Department said that, although the overall crime index in Waco has gone up, there has actually been a decrease in such violent crimes as robbery, murder, aggravated assault and sexual assault, and that the high index is the result of an increase in property crimes.

Murphy also said that the high number of reported crimes in Waco may have resulted from greater public confidence in community policing.

'People tend to report [crimes] more because they think we may be in more of a position to get [their] case solved,' Murphy said.

Other cities were happier with their crime statistics.

'The report for 1996 is very good for the city of Abilene,' Abilene police chief Melvin Martin said in the Reporter-News article. 'We're not without problems, but we're doing well compared to other cities.'

The safest middle-sized city in Texas in 1996 was Midland, with a crime index of 4,961. Deputy Chief John Urby of the Midland Police Department investigative services bureau credited the community as well as a good police department with Midland's low crime rate.

'We have a very good, very cooperative community that works with us,' Urby said in a phone interview Monday. 'We've experienced a major reduction in a lot of areas, but we're not unique in that.'

Urby said he couldn't pinpoint the cause of the differences in Midland and Waco crime rates.

'As far as being able to pinpoint why Waco has such a high number [of crimes], I don't think I can do that,' Urby said.

Other comparable-sized cities with low crime indexes included Odessa and Wichita Falls.

Figures for the first six months of 1996 indicated a 3 percent decrease in crime nationally, according to Uniform Crime Reporting Program figures released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in January. According to the release, violent crime decreased 5 percent nationally, while property crime decreased 2 percent.

Larger cities with populations of more than one million saw the greatest decline, almost 6 percent. Cities in the west, midwest and northeast regions of the nation saw an average decrease of nearly 6 percent during the first half of 1996, while cities in the south saw a 3 percent increase.

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