For the last couple weeks, we've been working on a story about crime in Sioux Falls. We'll tell you upfront; we're not doing this story to scare anyone, merely to inform and to ask some questions. Every day, we get a copy of police calls officers have made. We took the addresses from these reports and made a map and we found something interesting;
It deals with this section of Sioux Falls....bordered by Russell Street on the north, 18th Street on the south, West Avenue on the west and Cliff Avenue on the east.
In this area, you'll find 28% of all burglary reports, 38% of all assault reports, 40% of all larceny reports and 46% of all drug reports. But if you ask if this area has a specific crime problem....the answer you get...is "no".
The homes near the downtown core of Sioux Falls are older. They cater to folks with lower incomes. This area is home to a lot of good, honest, hard working people. But those who live here know...it's not all good.
"About every 6th house in this neighborhood is awful." Rod Schmidt is the owner of the La Salle Apartments at 15th and Summit and isn't shy when describing some of his neighbors. "5% of the people living in this area are thugs or thieves or criminals or whatever you call it."
The area of town we're talking about encompasses the neighborhoods immediately east and west of downtown. Areas where police cars and flashing lights and not uncommon sights. But the fact that so much crime is reported in this section of town.....could actually be good thing.
"We went out on 91,000 calls last year. It's certainly a lot and when you just hear that number you think there's a huge problem. A lot of those are officer initiated." Sioux Falls Police Chief Doug Barthel tells me...this specific area of Sioux Falls has been a prime focus for police efforts. More officers have been assigned to patrol these areas. And while the percentage of crime here is high, Barthel believes there is not a specific crime problem. Instead, he says it shows the result of targeted law enforcement. "Our officers are seeing more, they're making more arrests, so those numbers are actually going to go up."
A lot of the homes in this area are rental properties. And Ron Schmidt, who is himself a landlord....blames his fellow landlords for the crime problem in this area...saying if they would do more....there would be less crime. "If the landlords that were renting out these houses and apartments would be a little more selective on who they put in there the crime rate would drop significantly faster."
Police Chief Barthel tells me he is hesitant to say this section of Sioux Falls is a bad part of town. He doesn't believe there are any bad sections of the city. But he concedes this part of Sioux Falls lends itself to crime because he believes the people who live here can easily find themselves in desperate situations. "If there's a transient population....lower income.....people if they don't have the means to do the things they want to do or if they have addictions they're trying to feed they're going to resort to crime often times to take care of those needs."
If you spend some time in this neighborhood, you see kids running around. You see men and women who aren't afraid to say "hello". This area isn't overrun with trouble makers, and for Rod Schmidt, who has lived in this area for 12 years....he says it's unfair to paint this area with a broad brush in spite of its issues. "This is a great place to live. Is it Manhattan? No. Is it Beverly Hills? No. Is it affordable? Yeah."
When it comes to this specific area of Sioux Falls, Chief Barthel is adamant at saying it is safe, that people don't have to worry about being in the area at night. But he urges a general level of caution for all Sioux Falls residents, no matter what neighborhood they may live in.