BANGOR, Maine — The Greater Bangor metropolitan area ranked as the eighth-safest in the country among more than 300 areas that were surveyed recently by a Washington, D.C.-based policy organization.
CQ Press rated the safest and most-dangerous cities and metropolitan areas based on 2007 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. The categories include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft, which were ranked on a scale of crime per 100,000 people and then compared with the national rates.
“Of course we’ll take a little credit, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” Bangor police Chief Ron Gastia said Monday. “We tend to be very high on these types of lists every year. It certainly isn’t by chance, though. There is a lot of work that goes into that.”
Only cities with more than 75,000 people qualified for the CQ Press report, but in the metropolitan area category, there were no population minimums, which is why Bangor made that list. For the purposes of the CQ Press study, the Bangor metro area was defined loosely as most of Penobscot County, which included just under 150,000 people and ranked 262nd-largest out of the 338 areas studied.
“It’s always nice to hear,” Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said of his jurisdiction’s high marks. “One of the things that helps is the way law enforcement works together in this area. We have a great relationship with area municipal departments, and state police, which isn’t always the case in other areas.”
Two other Maine locations also made CQ Press’ list. The Greater Portland area ranked 28th, and the Lewiston-Auburn metro area was 60th. Among metropolitan areas, Logan, Utah, was the safest in the study, while Pine Bluff, Ark., was listed as the most dangerous.
Earlier this year, the same organization ranked states on overall safety, and Maine was second only to New Hampshire.
“I guess if there aren’t a lot of people, there’s not going to be as much crime,” said Lisa Ireland, 34, of Bangor, who was drinking coffee at a downtown cafe on Monday. “But it’s nice to know that we don’t have to worry about random shootings or things like that.”
Chris Ettinger, 25, of Bangor agreed that the city is generally safe, but not everywhere.
“Come by First Street sometime,” he said while walking downtown near Pickering Square. “I’m sure not everyone feels safe there.”
The 2007 UCR data for Maine have not been broken down by county, but on a statewide level, violent crimes decreased slightly while property crimes increased slightly over 2006. While the UCR data are used by a number of law enforcement agencies, criminologists, socialists and others, they are not perfect.
For instance, if more than one crime happens during one incident, only one is counted. Another factor is crimes reported vs. actual crimes committed. Not all all crimes are reported, particularly sexual assaults. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that violent crimes are reported only about 50 percent of the time and property crimes only about 40 percent of the time.
Both Gastia and Ross said the amount of crime that goes unreported in Bangor or Penobscot County is probably on par with every other part of the country.
As for whether the recent ranking might cause Bangor area residents to let down their guard, Ross said he doesn’t worry about that.
“People here are generally streetwise,” he said. “They know if they’re not paying attention, anything could happen.”
Gastia said even though Bangor is considered a safe place, residents shouldn’t be naive.
“On an individual basis, people might let their guard down. They might not lock their cars or houses because they don’t think they have to, but times have changed,” he said. “People should still take precautions.”