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Sidney named one of state's safest cities


Sidney was recently named as the eighth-safest city in Nebraska. Based on FBI crime data from 2012, violent crimes in the city averaged 1.32 incidents per 1,000 residents and property crimes 14.73 per 1,000.

The list was compiled by SafeWise, a Utah-based security organization established more than 75 years ago.

"Nebraska offers a wealth of Mother Nature's treasures, centuries of fascinating history and low crime rates," a SafeWise release announcing the report states. "According to the most recent FBI Crime Report, only 12 states in the nation are safer than Nebraska."

Sidney Chief of Police BJ Wilkinson said while it's nice the city fared well in the rankings, he questioned the reliability of the statistics.

"I'm not sure all comparisons were done with apples-to-apples," he said in a phone interview.

The numbers used to compile the rankings measure crime at about "10,000 feet" and don't record every reported crime, he explained.

Statistics are only one measure of the safeness of a city, and a comprehensive assessment would need to include the perceptions and feelings of its residents, the police chief added.

"I firmly believe that one of the primary jobs of any police department or sheriff's office in any community in America is to make feel like they're safe – where they live, where they work, where they go to school, where they worship," Wilkinson said.

Regardless of Sidney's rank in the study, he said his department is committed to ensuring city residents feel safe.

O'Neill, in northwestern Nebraska, topped the list as the city with the lowest crime rates. Gering was ranked No. 10, with 0.35 violent crimes per 1,000 residents and 16.08 property crimes per 1,000.

According to SafeWise, the report was created by tabulating crime statistics for every city in the state with a population more than 3,000.

"Then, we calculated the change of these crimes happening out of 1,000 people to ensure the playing field was level," the release explained.

Violent crimes consist of murder, aggravated assault, robbery and forcible rape. Property crimes are defined as burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson and larceny-theft.

"The citizens, law enforcement officers and leaders in Nebraska's safest cities really have something to brag about when it comes to low property crimes rates," the release states. "The Cornhusker State enjoys respectably low violent and property crime rates, and to keep it that way, Nebraska invests in its children."

The report cites the Nebraska Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a group that focuses on initiatives that can help improve the lives of the state's youth – especially those who are involved with the juvenile justice system.

"From addressing substance abuse issues in rural areas to improving school engagement and reducing absenteeism, Nebraska's Coalition for Juvenile Justice has launched several noteworthy programs that could be helping keep crime at bay," SafeWise notes.

Wilkinson said the Sidney Police Department is committed to community policing.

"Our officers live here, are involved in the community and we're pretty good at long term retention of our police officers – so we're able to build those relationships," he said. "And we're pretty progressive. For a small town agency with limited resources, we're able to do things with training and equipment other agencies aren't able to accomplish."

Wilkinson attributed that to solid leadership in the department and city, along with the commitment of the department's police officers.

After O'Neill, the other Nebraska cities rounding out the report include, in order, Auburn, Cozad, Falls City, Aurora, Wahoo and Seward.

"On average, the cities cited just 11.53 of property crime per 1,000 residents," the release adds. "That's less than half of the state and national average."

Here are the Top 10 safest cities in Nebraska, according to SafeWise:

1. O’Neill

Violent Crimes per 1,000: .26

Property Crimes per 1,000: 6.18

2. Auburn

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 1.14

Property Crimes per 1,000: 5.43

3. Cozad

Violent Crimes per 1,000: .24

Property Crimes per 1,000: 10.21

4. Falls City

Violent Crimes per 1,000: .92

Property Crimes per 1,000: 10.58

5. Aurora

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 1.56

Property Crimes per 1,000: 10.25

6. Wahoo

Violent Crimes per 1,000: .21

Property Crimes per 1,000: 12.93

7. Seward

Violent Crimes per 1,000: .85

Property Crimes per 1,000: 13.43

8. Sidney

Violent Crimes per 1,000: 1.32

Property Crimes per 1,000: 14.73

9. Blair

Violent Crimes per 1,000: .86

Property Crimes per 1,000: 15.36

10. Gering

Violent Crimes per 1,000: .35

Property Crimes per 1,000: 16.08


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