Highland News Leader

Highland ranks as one of safest cities in Illinois

Highland is one of the safest cities in Illinois, at least according to the home-security website Security Baron.

Security Baron is a home security and smart home corporation that runs a ranking system for consumer education in home security. One of those programs is its rankings of the 50 safest cities in every state.

And at 0.82 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, Highland is the seventh safest town in the state. That’s compared to the state average of 4.39 violent crimes and 20.11 property crimes per 1,000.

Highland also has 4.38 property crimes per 1,000 residents with a population of 9,809, and a citizen-to-officer ratio of 2.04 — which is lower than the state average of 3.16 officers per 1,000. Security Baron created a “safety score” that includes the population, violent and property crimes and the police ratio to create a single number. Highland’s safety score was 89, only two points below the top mark.

Highland Police Chief Chris Conrad said it’s difficult to point to any one reason why one community may feel safer than another, but that any law enforcement officer would say a safe community requires the buy-in of the community — it can’t be accomplished by police alone.

“For Highland, I think it certainly starts with the community itself and what the citizens are willing to accept as acceptable behavior,” Conrad said. “Our citizens take a lot of pride in not just having a safe community, but also in the appearance of their homes, our businesses and public areas. When a community has that communal pride, it creates a sort of societal peer pressure for people to take care of their property and to behave a certain way in public.”

Conrad said that recently, there was a problem with young people littering and “engaging in some status offense-type activity” in the high school parking lot after hours. Status offenses are listed as alcohol, tobacco and curfew violations. But the school district and police department worked with neighbors, individuals and community groups to address the problem, and he said they’ve seen “some very productive results.”

Likewise Conrad said his department has worked with community organizations for their active shooter response system, focusing on “if you see something, say something.”

“We are very fortunate to have a very engaged community that feels comfortable in reporting suspicious behaviors to the police department so we have the opportunity to address issues before they become full-fledged problems or crimes,” Conrad said.

Conrad said his officers often engage in activities that might not be considered traditional law enforcement: Quality of life issues, neighborhood disputes, mental health concerns, landlord-tenant issues, and other things that might not be criminal, but if left unaddressed, can grow into criminal issues.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to hire great employees who take a lot of pride in providing a professional service to our citizens,” Conrad said. “We have highly educated employees who understand the bigger picture of our role in the community and have the talent and skills to be much more than just enforcers and peacemakers.”

The safest city in Illinois, according to the rankings, is Campton Hills, which is in the Chicago collar counties and reported zero violent crimes last year. Likewise five of the six cities with a higher ranking than Highland are in the Chicago area, with the exception of Chester in Southern Illinois.

Lower in the ranks but still in the top 50 are Columbia, with 0.77 violent crimes and 7.04 property crimes per 1,000 residents and a safety score of 86.86; and Maryville, with 1.51 violent crimes and 8.41 property crimes and a safety score of 85.45.

Security Baron’s site indicates they used the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting data to calculate its statistics. Crimes included were murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, vehicle theft and arson.

“Theft or violence can occur ‘in the nick of crime’ and no one is immune,” said Security Baron spokesman Gabe Turner in a release. “Although it is difficult to predict when crime will occur, it is vital to ensure the area you are visiting or moving to is secure and not infamous for any sort of criminal behavior.”

And Conrad’s advice to other cities hoping to make their streets safer?

“Be professional, build relationships in the community and solve problems,” he said. “If we do those three things well, the community responds. This is truly a community recognition much more than it is a police department recognition.”

Curious how your city ranked?

Here are the Security Baron safety scores for other towns in the metro-east:

  • Pontoon Beach: 79.85 — 1.45 violent crimes and 17.05 property crimes per 1,000;
  • O’Fallon: 76.31 — 1.86 violent crimes and 20.8 property crimes;
  • Collinsville: 73.11 — 2.25 violent crimes and 24.91 property crimes;
  • Belleville: 64.46 — 5.11 violent crimes and 33.39 property crimes; and
  • Wood River: 62.23 — 3.04 silent crimes and 39.36 property crimes.

Additional info on metro-east cities

Not all cities in Illinois were included. No rankings were listed for Edwardsville, Troy, Glen Carbon, Swansea, East St. Louis, Granite City and several other metro-east cities. However, the FBI does track those statistics year to year. Here are the numbers for 2018 as reported to the FBI:

City

Violent Crimes

Property Crimes

Population

Edwardsville

13

185

25,054

Glen Carbon

9

129

12,991

Troy

13

81

10,216

Swansea

14

192

13,506

Granite City

219

729

28,593

Alton

202

1,043

26,563

East St. Louis

317

520

26,630

Fairview Heights

67

695

16,516

Caseyville

38

50

4,038

SIUE Police

1

9

n/a

Madison County Sheriff

145

953

73,754

St. Clair County Sheriff

111

844

50,954

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