Six Northwest Indiana communities have ranked in “Indiana's 20 Safest Cities of 2018” according to SafeWise.com, a professional review website focusing on safety.
St. John took the top spot as the No. 1 safest place to live in Indiana, with the lowest numbers in both violent and property crimes. St. John, according to Town Manager Steve Kil, has held top rankings in similar lists for quite some time. He said he sees this ranking as a big “congrats to everyone” in the town.
“We've been topping the charts for several years now," Kil said. “I don't think something like this is achieved by any one factor. It takes the whole community. It takes a watchful population, a dedicated police force and a diligent town staff. It's really all of the above, not just one thing.”
Cities and towns were chosen based on the 2016 Federal Bureau of Investigations crime statistics and population data. The number of violent crimes and property crimes were taken into consideration to calculate the crime rate per 1,000 people in each city, taking into consideration differing population sizes.
One common thread of the top 20 communities listed is that the violent crime rate was almost 85 percent less than the state average, according to SafeWise.com. In addition, property crimes were 38 percent less than the state average.
These rankings are more than a pat on the back to the communities that make the cut. Kil said these reviews are important to bolstering the housing market by giving a green light to families searching for a place to call home in the Region.
“We're building 400 new homes each year, and I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of new residents, and I ask, 'Why St. John?'” Kil said. “They want to make sure they're moving their family to a safe place. I can tell you firsthand they research these things.”
St. John was also named the wealthiest town in Indiana in 2017 by 24/7 Wall St., with a median household income of $95,777, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.
The fourth-safest city in Indiana according to the list, Crown Point, has ranked in previous years, Mayor David Uran said. Uran attributed the city's reputation for safety to the growing police force and their prominent presence in Crown Point.
“There's a lot of different measuring sticks for these types of rankings, and Crown Point is traditionally in the top 10 because of our consistency in our philosophy,” Uran said. “...I can't praise our police officers enough. It's different today how law enforcement is looked at by the public and our officers are well-trained and professional every step of the way.”
Dyer ranked as the fifth-safest community, with Munster following right behind as the sixth-safest.
“The first obligation of the Dyer Town Council is to ensure safety for all,” Dyer Town Council Vice President Mary Tanis said. “The Dyer Police Department and first responders are my priority. The award is proof of the diligence and fortitude of our P.D. and police commission. Dyer cooperates continually with Lake Central School Corp. to protect everyone, everywhere. We are so proud of the recognition.”
While communities such as St. John and Crown Point are used to the accolades of safest-city lists and top family-friendly town rankings, places like Griffith and Merrillville are seeing the fruits of their labor upon being found among these rankings for the first time.
Griffith Town Council President Rick Ryfa said the police department's administration change years ago resulted in added patrols and violent crimes drastically dropping.
“This is a tremendous achievement. Hats off to the police,” Ryfa said. “There's been a tremendous reduction in crime in the northern part of town.”
Ryfa said Griffith has seen a recent “renaissance,” with housing on the upswing, frequent festivals and new businesses popping up in the town. A dedicated police force has been a crucial part of that, he said.
“What they've accomplished is incredible, comparing where we were at six years ago to where we're at today; It's like night and day,” Ryfa said. “There are more families moving into town, and the reduction of the crime rate is a big part of that.”
Merrillville also found itself on the list for the first time.
“This is the first time I'm aware of, which is why I consider it a great honor,” Richard Hardaway, president of the Town Council, said. “It shows hard work pays off.”
Hardaway said police leadership is proactive in preventing crime before it happens.
“We're going to strive to get better and better,” Hardaway said. “We're not going to settle for being in the second tier of the top 20, we want to be at the top tier.”