Crime down in Eau Claire

Eau Claire had the fourth lowest violent crime rate in the country in 2007, according to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Eau Claire also saw a small drop in violent crime last year, which fell to its lowest rate since at least 2003.

No murders were reported for the third straight year and the numbers of robberies and aggravated assaults both decreased. However, reports of rape went up 50 percent from eight in 2006 to 12 in 2007.

Overall the city reported 96 violent crimes in 2007 – nearly half the 182 reported in 2004 and a slight improvement from the 100 reported in 2006, according to annual data.

“What we’ve known all along is that Eau Claire itself is a very safe city,” University Police Sgt. Chris Kirchman said. “We have very little violent crime here. It doesn’t mean that it can’t happen; it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen; it just means that it doesn’t happen very often.”

The number of property crimes also went down last year, from 2,191 in 2006 to 1,966 in 2007.

On campus, reports of crime by the University Police department dropped last year as well.

The biggest decrease was in liquor violation arrests, which decreased from 166 during the 2006-07 year to 127 last year. Arrests for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated decreased about 25 percent as well. Figures include arrests made during the summer months.

University Police received four reports of sexual assault last year – more than in the previous two years – but upon investigation all four cases were declared “unfounded” and resulted in no charges, bringing the number of actual assaults reported on campus to zero. Kirchman acknowledged that number might be conservative.

Kirchman also said it is difficult to identify any long-term trends in crime on campus because the “on-campus population changes by about 40 or 50 percent every year.”

“Because your clienteles change so much,” he said, “(crime) changes from year to year.”

Parents and students both said they felt good about the FBI’s report.

“It just puts our mind at ease – my mind at ease – quite a bit to know that, number one, he’s in a safe community; number two, he’s in a relatively safe school,” Jim Hamilton said, who was visiting his son freshman Ryan Hamilton this weekend.

Students living off campus also said they felt good about the city’s crime rate.

“Two years ago our cars got broken into,” senior Melissa Sedo said. “But other than that I feel safe walking back from campus at night.”

The UCR cautions on its Web site against using its data to make rankings or compare cities, saying that “these rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime” and can be misleading.

The report nevertheless showed that Eau Claire had the fourth-lowest violent crime rate in the country last year behind Bangor, Maine; Logan, Utah; and Provo-Orem, Utah. Two other Wisconsin cities, Appleton and Sheboygan, also had two of the country’s lowest violent crime rates.