Getting Ready

Carnival workers put together rides for Prairie Days in this 2016 Nisqually Valley News file photo. 

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. 

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(3) comments


As a military family, we’ve lived in 4 different areas of the south sound as rentals were sold out from under us. I have to say that our time here in Yelm has by far been the best (4 years here) and we are really sad to have to leave now. I’ve lived in Olympia and two separate areas of Lacey and the mail theft/petty theft was worse in both locations even though we have those community mailboxes. Those boxes don’t hold packages.
But even with those issues, what I see in yelm that I didn’t see in those other places is that in spite of the growth here, the city leaders are very visible and honest about their efforts to address these issues and keep working. Resources need to catch up to growth but it’s an issues everyone is working on. Even though we didn’t grow up here and don’t live within the city limits, I know who all of the town leadership is. I see that they care about this place and that’s what makes Yelm such a great place to live.


There say they have a low crime rate but my front door was kicked in and they didn't do anything and then I broke in a second time and I didn't report it because of the lack of interest about the first time then they broke into my house a third time and moved things that have not been moved since I moved in which was almost 2 years ago so the only prints on the things like the extra microwave sitting unplugged on top of my safe was now on a pile of boxes about 5 feet from the safe and would have had only the person to hat broke in fingerprints on it because no one else has touched it in 2 years and there was a number of things like that which would have the crooks prints on them. But instead of taking finger print the police officer was more interested in why I had not gotten home till about 3 in the morning even thought of had already told him I was visiting a friend in Renton which takes awhile to drive from Renton to yelm stopping g off in Tacoma to visit my mom. They not only didn't seem like they wanted to catch the person who broke in they said they would not take fingerprints because it was only a burglary and therefore they would not take prints even thought I told them I believe I knew who it was and it would have been easy to match the prints so I had wasted 2 1/2 hours waiting for them to come out and not do anything except to treat me like I was the bad guy. With a little effort they could haave caught the guy doing this and I am not the only person he has broken Inti cars and houses and when I found out what he was doing u stopped letting him come over or having anything to do with him so he got mad and made me a target. Now I bet if it was the mayor's house that he broke into they would have taken the time to take find fingerprints. But u am just a nobidy according to the police officers that came to my house. How can you have a low crime rate when they won't take the time to get these crooks off the streets I mean this would have been a super easy case for them if they cares at all since then he has broken I to my home again. When I was there and asleep and he ran off before I could wake up and do anything now I sleep with a loaded rifile next to me just to feel safe enough to sleep since or police don't don't seem to care and the next time he breaks into my home will be his last I have the right to defend myself since the police won't help and I know he has a pistol which he
He stole from me so I will not take any chances I will shoot I because I know I might be armed and I don't want to die because they don't want to do anything about a burglary I bet they will care a little then.


What USA Today thinks of Yelm doesn't bother me. It is worrisome that the Chief is passing off the crime statistics by claiming that a "per hundred thousand resident" measure is only valid for a town with less than one hundred thousand residents, and then offering the same measure to counter the reported statistic. No, a statistic like that is perfectly valid for towns under 100,000 population. Even 10,000. Especially since what he offers makes no sense on the face. Additionally he claims that the report makes no mention of violent crime, when even in the excerpt, violent crime is addressed. Personally I have not suffered theft here and have no complaints about crime. Yelm seems OK to me, and am glad the violent crime rate is so low, but it is important to acknowledge a simple statistic like this, because countering it is such a way seems to indicate that there is no problem. No one holds the police force responsible for petty theft. They simply catch them when they can. If the statistic is high, it may simply be a fluke. If not, maybe there is some quality about Yelm yet to be recognized, that ought to be. It won't be, if it is ignored.

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