FBI: New Hampshire is safest state in U.S.

by Mark Herman | 11/12/02 6:00am

According to recently-released FBI statistics, Hanover is the safest town in New Hampshire, which the FBI says is the nation's safest state.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program cited 29,233 crimes throughout the state, making New Hampshire's crime rate 2.3 incidents per 100 residents.

Ranking below New Hampshire were South Dakota, North Dakota, West Virginia, Maine and Vermont, each with crime rates lower than 3 incidents per 100 residents.

New Hampshire was named the third-safest state in 2000 and first in 1998 and 1999.

With a crime rate of 1.04 incidents per 100 residents, Hanover is the safest of 18 New Hampshire jurisdictions with populations of 10,000 or greater, the survey said -- well below the state and national averages. No robberies or aggravated assaults were reported to law enforcement in Hanover last year, although Hanover was home to two of only 17 murders statewide, those of Dartmouth professors Susanne and Half Zantop.

Though Hanover may be the safest city in New Hampshire, neighboring Lebanon was among the most dangerous, with a crime rate of over 4.2, just slightly above the national average. Lebanon, a city with 1,751 more people than Hanover, had more incidents of burglary, larceny and theft, but no murders last year.

While the national crime rate increased for the first time in a decade, up to 4.2 from 4.1 in 2000, New Hampshire was one of 17 states whose crime rates decreased, as 4.8 percent fewer crimes were reported last year.

Crime studies expert and Drew University professor James O'Kane said that the reason crime went up nationally is "anybody's guess, but my immediate reaction is that it has gone down so low over the past couple of years, that part of the upswing is just getting back to a more 'normal' pattern of criminality."

As for New Hampshire and New England in general, O'Kane attributed the historically low crime rate to a poor regional economy over the last 20 or 25 years that has caused 18-to-24-year-old males to look elsewhere for jobs.

"You are draining the real criminal-prone age group and sex group," O'Kane said. "That alone will account for a decrease in crime."

Hanover Police Department Chief Nicholas Giaccone agreed. "A lot of it has to do with demographics," Giaccone said, adding that New Hampshire's rural location and Hanover's affluence contribute to these trends.

New Hampshire may also be combating crime more effectively than other states, according to Giaccone. "We have a fairly well-recognized training program" that has garnered national attention, he said.

Additionally, Giaccone cited the way police within the state deal with the justice system, stricter sentencing and tougher probation as more effective measures of crime prevention.

As for Dartmouth, Hanover is the safest of the Ivy League college towns listed in the FBI survey. Providence, R.I., home of Brown University, had the highest crime rate -- 8.3 incidents per 100 residents.

At the College, Safety and Security publishes a similar report of crimes each year. Last year, it cited one motor-vehicle theft and seven sexual offenses. There were no incidents of assault, burglary, murder or robbery.

Through the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, nearly 17,000 participating police departments like the one in Hanover, record the most serious crimes against people and property such as murders, rapes, robberies and assaults. They then forward data to the FBI, which compiles it into an annual report, listing amounts and types of crime by state, region and city.

The indexed crime data does not include incidents of prostitution, drug possession, disorderly conduct or other less-serious crimes that occur in lower numbers.

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