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Crime and Policing in Rural Areas

Data about crime and abuse in a community illustrate the extent to which atypical, anti-social behaviors have been reported to or acted upon by authorities. These data inform our understanding of the extent of criminal activities in an area as well as our expectations about the impacts likely to be felt in the community.

Crime and Policing in Rural Areas

Excerpted from: Weisheit, Ralph A., David Falcone, and L. Edward Wells. 1994. Rural Crime and Rural Policing. National Institute of Justice: Research in Action. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

"Most research concludes that crime is less frequent in rural areas, and it is often speculated that greater informal controls in rural areas protect against high crime rates. The belief that crime is less frequent in rural areas is supported by recent Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) data that present crime by type and population group... Examining UCR index crimes for 1990 reveals several interesting patterns:

-  Index offense rates, including homicide are higher for urban areas than for rural areas.

-  The gap between rural and urban crime is greater for violent crime than for property crime.

The Morrow County Courthouse

The Morrow County Courthouse in Heppner:
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

-  The rank order of offenses for property crime is roughly similar for urban and rural areas. That is, larceny is the most common crime and motor vehicle theft the least common crime in both areas.

-  The greatest difference between rural and urban crime is robbery, which occurs almost 54 times more often per 100,000 citizens in urban areas...

"Even though less is known about rural crime than urban crime, available information indicates some key dimensions:

-  Crime such as homicide, rape, and assault are more likely to occur among acquaintances than is true in urban areas.

-  Crimes unique to the rural environment include agricultural crimes (e.g., thefts of crop and timber) and wildlife crimes (e.g., poaching).

-  Rural law enforcement officers, more than their urban counterparts, often work with lower budgets, less staff, less equipment, and fewer written policies to govern their operations. Despite these problems, rural police appear to be more efficient than urban police and more respected by the public.

-  Features of the rural culture that affect law enforcement operations include informal social control among citizens, a mistrust of government, and a reluctance to share internal problems. These characteristics may result, for example, in failure to report a crime out of the belief that it's a private matter."

Explore on Your Own!

Did arrest rates change in your community between 1990 and 2005? How do they compare to the state? Are there differences between urban and rural arrest rates in Oregon? What do you think explains the differences or similarities in crime rates across communities in the state?

Launch the Oregon Communities Reporter Tool

Crime and Abuse-Related Terms

Using the tools of the Oregon Communities Reporter you can examine trends in crime across the state among the following variables:

  • Arrest Rates by Crime: The annual arrest rates for four categories of offenses per 1,000 people. 1991 data used for 1990.
    Crimes Against Person --“ Include willful murder, negligent homicide, rape, other sex crimes, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault.
    Crimes Against Property -- Include burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, forgery/counterfeit, fraud, embezzlement, stolen property, and vandalism.
    Index Crimes -- Are willful murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny (theft), motor vehicle theft, and arson.
    Behavioral Crimes -- Include weapons regulation laws, prostitution, drug laws, gambling, offenses against family, D.U.I.I., liquor laws, disorderly conduct, all other offenses (except traffic), curfew, and runaway juveniles.
    Formula example: ([# arrests for crimes against person]/[total population in county])*1000
    Source: State of Oregon Criminal Justice Commission

  • Arrest Rates for Juveniles by Crime: The annual arrest rates of juveniles per 1000 juvenile population. 1991 data used for 1990.
    Crimes Against Person -- Include willful murder, negligent homicide, rape, other sex crimes, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault.
    Crimes Against Property -- Include burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson, forgery/counterfeit, fraud, embezzlement, stolen property, and vandalism.
    Index Crimes -- Are willful murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny (theft), motor vehicle theft, and arson.
    Behavioral Crimes -- Include weapons regulation laws, prostitution, drug laws, gambling, offenses against family, D.U.I.I., liquor laws, disorderly conduct, all other offenses (except traffic), curfew, and runaway juveniles.
    Formula: ([# arrests of juveniles for crimes against person]/[total juvenile population in county])*1000
    Source: State of Oregon Criminal Justice Commission

  • Child Abuse Rates: The number of children under age 18 who were reported as victims of child abuse or neglect, per 1,000 juveniles.
    Formula: ([# of children reported victims]/[total population under 18])*1000
    Source: Oregon Department of Human Services

Sources

Excerpted from: Weisheit, Ralph A., David Falcone, and L. Edward Wells. 1994. Rural Crime and Rural Policing. National Institute of Justice: Research in Action. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

Authored by Lena Etuk, Social Demographer, Oregon State University Extension Service (2008)