CARY — This town of about 146,000 residents has long touted itself as a safe place to live. Now it claims the lowest crime rate in the nation among cities of similar size.
In 2012, the town had about 14.4 crimes per 1,000 people, based on data for eight crimes tracked by the FBI and analyzed by Cary officials. The town edged out second-place Naperville, Ill., outside Chicago, which had a crime rate of 15.1 per 1,000 residents.
Cary has narrowly missed out on the safest-town title in the past. In 2011, the town had the ninth-lowest crime rate among cities with populations of 100,000 to 500,000, based on FBI data.
The designation is important, town officials say. Cary is full of families who moved here from somewhere else, and many of them consider a town’s crime rate when looking for a new place to call home, said Police Chief Pat Bazemore.
When Lois and Ted Dziedzic decided to leave southern Florida eight years ago, they found Cary was the perfect place to move. It had a suburban atmosphere, and they saw a news report that said it was one of the safest cities in the country.
“I moved to get away from the crime,” said Ted Dziedzic, 64, a retired New York City police officer. “I love it.”
Cary compiled the ranking of crime rates for midsized cities using data collected from more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country contained in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report program. Cary’s Crime Analysis Unit crunched the numbers to determine cities with the lowest crime rates, based on four violent crimes and four property crimes.
Last year, Cary police investigated 115 reports of violent crimes, including rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The violent crime data also includes murder, but Cary did not have any murders in 2012.
Meanwhile, police investigated 1,917 reports of property crimes, which are burglaries, larcenies and thefts, motor-vehicle thefts and arson.
By contrast, neighboring Raleigh, with about three times the population, had 1,778 violent crimes and 13,779 property crimes, according to the state.
Bazemore said community initiatives have helped keep crime low in Cary. Nearly three years ago, the town launched Project PHOENIX, which partners police officers with 41 multifamily housing developments in town.
Through the program, the town’s parks and recreation department provides after-school and summer activities for kids, and officers work with managers of apartment complexes to suggest better lighting and other safety measures, Bazemore said.
Another program allows police to analyze certain areas of town that have the most vehicle crashes and crime. Police step up patrols in those neighborhoods.
“We’re always looking for ways to do things better and things to do differently,” Bazemore said.
The town also has an active neighborhood watch program, said Officer John Reeves, who coordinates the effort. Police might send out a report about a crime spree in a neighborhood, for example, and ask neighborhood watch members to be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles.
The program helps residents feel more comfortable interacting with police officers, Reeves said.
“I think most people tend to be intimidated to call the police department and ask questions when there’s no emergency,” he said. “They don’t know if that’s appropriate or not appropriate.”
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