Worried about more violence

Americans believe violent crime, including homicides, is on the rise, according to a recent Gallup Poll. While statistics released last week by the Hardin County Coroner’s office might seem to support that perception, local law enforcement officials say it’s too early to see a jump in local homicides as a trend.

In the first six months of 2015, five homicides have been recorded locally. Last year, there were three recorded and only one in the previous two years by this time of the year.

The national crime rate is about half of what it was two decades ago, and violent crime rates fell by 51 percent during the same period.

Kentucky’s violent crime rate average is generally lower than the national average, according to the Kentucky Crime Statistics and Rates Report.

Elizabethtown’s violent crime statistics also show an overall downward trend based on data from the previous decade. By comparison, last year the city’s violent crime rates were lower than the state’s average by almost 43 percent and lower than the national average by 67 percent.

Reasons vary, but most experts focus on three primary factors:

Better educated and trained law enforcement personnel, improved law enforcement strategies and advances in technology available to the law enforcement community.

Social, economic and environmental issues, including a decrease in unemployment and increase in consumer confidence.

An aging population. Statistically, more violent crimes are committed by persons younger than 50.

So, despite such strong evidence of a decrease in violent crimes, why the persistent perception that violent crime is on the upswing?

Reports of high-profile crimes, an increase in the number of crime shows on network and cable television, and what is referred to as “personal fear factors” all are cited by crime prevention experts as being among the more common reasons.

While officials at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law acknowledge “fluctuations” in violent crime rates across the nation, they argue there is nothing to indicate a long-term upward swing, particularly in communities such as ours.

Vine Grove Police Chief Kenny Mattingly agrees and suggests that we are simply experiencing a local “anomaly.”

Certainly, in recent years many have taken for granted that Hardin County communities are safe and relatively free of violent crime, and the statistics have supported that belief.

Will this trend continue or will we see a continuation in the increase of violent crimes?

Only time will tell.

At the very least, the current-year increase in violent crime has raised community awareness and should prompt residents to take a more proactive approach to violent crime prevention.

That can be done by following a few simple steps:

• Educate yourself about violent crimes, including domestic violence, and learn how to prevent them.

• Ask for and support law enforcement’s efforts to make the community safer.

• Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement agencies.

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown

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