Clarifying crime statistics for the town of Spencer
By Reid Walters
For the Salisbury Post
As the Spencer town manager, it is necessary that I address a recent article in the Salisbury Post concerning a presentation by Chief Stokes to Salisbury City Council regarding Salisbury’s violent crime statistics.
Our town deals with many baseless perception issues, and while the chief’s comments and Post article were not meant to fuel those unjustified opinions, the ill-qualified statements have done just that. Chief Stokes stated that in 2014 Spencer’s violent crime per capita was higher than Salisbury’s and further qualified that Spencer was smaller than most cities on the list, implying that crime was more rampant due to a smaller population. Several aspects of the statistical analysis need further clarification. I will preface this clarification by stating that the town of Spencer and the city of Salisbury have an excellent working relationship. The intent of this clarification is simply to present some of the facts absent from the Salisbury Post article titled, “Police Chief: Gangs cause for most Salisbury gun violence.”
Spencer had a couple of unique situations in 2014 which jolted our violent crime statistics into a place not typical for our town: a double homicide at a known drug house where attempts were made to make undercover drug purchases, to no avail, and a domestic dispute that led to a stabbing. In the first situation, the assailants were from Salisbury and were promptly arrested, and in the latter the Spencer Police had consistently made attempts to provide support resources, and the assailant was promptly arrested. Not a good year for Spencer, and not a typical year either. What was not explained is that looking at crime trends it is atypical for Spencer’s crime rate to be higher than Salisbury’s. Using the same, scaled analysis Chief Stokes used in his presentation, Spencer’s rate of violent crime was 22 percent lower in 2015 and 68 percent lower than Salisbury’s in 2016.
Also, Spencer and China Grove are referenced in this report because these municipalities report the crime that occurs. Reporting crimes is not mandatory via state or federal law. There are multiple municipalities in Rowan County that do not report crime statistics. Our police chief voluntarily reports all crimes that occur in our town. He does this because it is the right thing to do and we run an agency of integrity. Furthermore, many of the competitive grants associated with police departments require the reporting of this data.
Spencer supports all efforts to help Salisbury, and all of Rowan County, combat crime. Indeed, our town proudly has an inter-local agreement with Salisbury. While there are no crime solutions in pointing to numbers there is the risk of creating unfounded and wrong perceptions when numbers are parsed or incorrectly presented.
Reid Walters is Spencer’s town manager.