How to Find the Crime Rate in My Area

By Wayne Thomas
crime rates, you, a victim

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We all want to feel safe in our homes and neighborhoods. If you are planning on moving to a new area or want to see how dangerous your current living environment is, you might benefit from reviewing current crime statistics. This information is becoming more widely available and can typically be obtained online from the website of your local police department or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Local Police

One of the easiest ways to obtain up-to-date information regarding crime rates in your area is through the local police department. Many departments have searchable databases online that allow you to see maps showing the location of crimes committed in your area and provide a breakdown of statistical data according to the type of crime committed. This information can often be broadened to the citywide level or narrowed to a particular neighborhood. Some of these sites, such as the San Diego Police Department page, also allow you to sign up for email or text message alerts notifying you when the information is updated.

FBI Database

If you are unable to find the crime statistics in your area through the local police department website, you can request this information over the phone. You can also access some local crime data through the FBI's website. Police departments are required to periodically report crime rates to the FBI and one benefit of this database is its scale, meaning you can compare statistics at the local level to statistics in other states or nationally. However, the FBI data is narrow in scope, and crime information is limited to certain violent crimes, such as rape and homicide, and property crimes, like burglary and arson.

Sex Offender Registries

Depending on the type of crime statistic you are interested in, other databases may provide more detailed information. For instance, under Megan's Law, police departments are required to post information regarding convicted sex offenders. The information includes statistics regarding the number and type of crimes committed, and often contains more detailed information about offenders living in your area. While the level of detail varies from state to state, you can often gain access to information about sex offenders within your zip code, including current name and address and the type of crime they committed; you might even be able to see a mugshot.

Additional Resources

The FBI posts some additional statistics that may help you in your search. One is the hate crime statistics report. This annual report focuses on crimes that were motivated by a bias against the victim -- based on race or religion, for example. You can break down the statistics according to victim or offender trait, type of underlying crime committed, and aggregate numbers reported by each state. The FBI also publishes police employee data tables. These reports outline the number of police officers and civilian staff employed in a particular region, state, county or city. This information may be helpful in comparing the crime rate to the number of police officers you have employed in your area.

About the Author

Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."