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Farmington officials fear media report on violent crime unfairly maligns city
Statistics cover Farmington MSA, not just city
FARMINGTON — City of Farmington officials stress that a recent media report stating the city experienced a surge in violent crime represents San Juan County as a whole, not just the city.
A report by 24/7 Wall St. issued last week stated Farmington is one of eight U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas that have reported an increase of more than 50 percent in violent crime between 2011 and 2016.
24/7 Wall St. is a content partner of USA TODAY, and its content is produced independently.
The report used data from the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report to compare the violent crime rate for metro areas between 2011 and 2016.
Crimes including murder, manslaughter, rape and aggravated assault are listed as violent. Burglary, larceny and auto theft as listed as property crimes.
Figures in the report are submitted voluntarily by law enforcement agencies across the country, according to the FBI's website.
The 24/7 Wall St. report stated the Farmington metro area had a violent crime rate of 625.1 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011 and a rate of 947.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016 for an increase of about 51.6 percent. It also cited Farmington as the most dangerous metro area in the state.
Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said the Farmington metro area encompasses all of San Juan County. A metro area is how the federal government defines population centers around the country, according to Mayes. Typically, a metro area is labeled with the name of the city with the largest population.
Mayes said the reports about Farmington as a metro area do not reflect the city of Farmington and are not indicative of life within the city.
"Farmington is a very safe place to live," Mayes said.
The Farmington Police Department posted a response to the report on its website today, which echoed Mayes' statements that the Farmington metro area is nearly 5,500 square miles, an area larger than the state of Connecticut. The department's statement said the city of Farmington is 32 square miles and represents less than 1 percent of the Farmington metro area.
The report also said the increase in violent crime occurred as Farmington's unemployment rate increased from 7.9 percent to 8.9 percent in the same five-year time period.
Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said he's had people reach out to him regarding the report, believing it was about the city of Farmington, and he's had to explain the report represents the Farmington metro area.
“I’m disappointed with yet another article that distorts the image of our city. Like many communities, we do have some violent crime," Hebbe said in the statement. "However, our incidents of random violent crime are significantly less than this article insinuates."
The FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report stated the city of Farmington had 504 violent crimes reported in 2011 and 293 in 2016, a significant reduction.
Statistics only go so far, according to Hebbe. He cited as an example sexual assaults, which historically are believed to be vastly under reported.
As law enforcement agencies work with local organizations to encourage victims to report incidents of sexual assault, Hebbe said the number of such reports increases and could give the impression that more crime is occurring when it is simply a case of more incidents being reported.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.