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Keeping crime in perspective

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Judging from comments posted on Evanston Now this week, there’s been a lot of community outrage about the daylight gun battle Tuesday across from Evanston Township High School.

That, and the slashing of a motorist during a robbery or carjacking attempt near the school, have people on edge.

In many ways the outrage is a good thing. We shouldn’t get complacent about violence in our community.

But a number of readers have said there is a “growing problem” with violence in Evanston. And it's helpful to test that claim against the facts.

The numbers suggest the claim is only accurate if you are pretty selective about the periods you compare.

Comparing the latest available figures, through the end of May, violent crimes in Evanston that will be reported to the FBI are essentially unchanged from the same period last year — totalling 86 last year and 85 this year.

No murders during the period either year. Four rapes in 2012. None so far this year. Robberies up by 1, Aggravated battery and assaults up by 2.

Meanwhile reportable categories of non-violent crime are down 7.4 percent.

June, of course, is only half over, and it could turn out to be a rough month. But then there are frequently short-term spurts in crime.

A search for "shots heard" reports on Evanston Now's crime map — which is based on daily crime bulletin incidents listed by Evanston police — determined that there were 35 this year in the period through yesterday, and the exact same number for the same period last year.

Violent crime was up last year in Evanston. There were 235 violent crime incidents reportable to the FBI in 2012 compared to 180 in 2011. But the longer-term trend shows a big reduction, from 594 violent crime incidents back in 1995.

Meanwhile, one suspect has been charged in the shooting incident, but police were unable to develop enough evidence to charge the other person they think was involved. And police are still looking for the assailant in the slashing attack.

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