Yelm Police Chief Todd Stancil can’t help but respond with a chuckle when asked about a recent national news report that sought to identify the worst city to live in each state.
That’s because when it came to Washington, the author behind the story by 24/7 Wall Street — which was published online by USA Today — somehow came to the conclusion that of all the cities, towns and villages across the Evergreen State, Yelm is simply the worst.
“Though residents of Yelm, Washington, are far less likely to live below the poverty line or be the victim of a violent crime than those in most cities on this list, other conditions in the city detract from quality of life,” the author wrote. “For example, property crime — a broad category that includes burglary and motor vehicle theft — is relatively common in Yelm. The city’s property crime rate of 5,750 incidents per 100,000 in 2017 was nearly the highest of any city in the state and well above the U.S property crime rate of 2,362 per 100,000. Unlike most cities on this list that are growing relatively slowly or losing residents in recent years, Yelm is growing rapidly. Over the last five years, the number of people living in the city increased by a staggering 24.6 percent. Over the same period, the U.S. population expanded by just 3.8.”
As the lead lawman in a city being criticized for crime, Stancil was a bit incredulous.
The problem is with the method used by 24/7 Wall Street, he noted.
Since Yelm doesn’t have 100,000 people, the author simply multiplied the population and property crime rate out to reach that number.
That doesn’t work considering that, in the past seven years, Yelm’s population has grown by 27 percent while the property crime rate has only risen 1.6 percent, Stancil noted. That would put Yelm at about 1,228 incidents per 100,000 residents, which is far below the national average of 2,300 incidents per 100,000 residents.
“That doesn’t even mention that our violent crimes are next to nothing,” he said. “No mention of that.”
Stancil also noted his department’s aggressive stance toward petty theft. The department works with business to ensure everything is reported, “from a stolen candy bar to a cart full of groceries.” He said the Yelm Walmart, which as national policy normally doesn’t report thefts of $20 or less, now reports every single theft to police. That policy drives up property crime rates.
Stancil wonders why a national media outlet would provide such shoddy reporting, but he’s not angry, he says.
“To me, it’s a little humorous,” he said. “I’ve lived here basically my whole life, and people who live here know Yelm is a great place to live.”
He suspects the problem with the report was all in the methodology, as most of the “worst cities to live” on the list have a population in the neighborhood of 10,000 people.