During Ithaca College’s winter break, a string of burglaries occurred on Pennsylvania Avenue. According to the article, the victims claimed to have locked their doors before leaving, but the perpetrators were unfortunately able to break in to the homes regardless.

This got me thinking: Is this common for a college town?

The Tompkins County area is home to three well-known colleges: Cornell University, Ithaca College and the Tompkins-Cortland Community College. One would assume that with such a high population of rowdy college students, a higher level of crime reports, especially those concerning property damage, would be something to be expected.

That’s not exactly what I found.

Crime Over Time Chart
This chart shows the change in reported crimes over a period of 22 years, beginning in 1990 to the left and ending with 2012 toward the right. Final 2012 numbers: Violent 65, Murder 0, Forcible Rape 4, Robbery 30, Aggravated Assault 31, Property 1238, Burglary 177, Larceny 1033, Motor Vehicle Theft 28, Total Index Crimes 1303.

The Division of Criminal Justice Service in New York state collects data from more than 500 police and sheriff’s departments, and submits them to the FBI as the state’s official crime statistics. Above is the data reported by the Ithaca City Police Department from 1990 (left) to 2012 (right).

Contrary to what most people would think about reading the article about the Pennsylvania Avenue burglaries, the number of reported burglaries has actually been following a downward trend. Here are a number of other interesting statistics:

  • The highest number of murders reported to the IPD during this period was only 2 in 2000. One of the victims was 24-year-old Alexander Butter Miller.
  • Yet the highest number of forcible rapes occurred in 1991 with a startling 20. The next highest, and only other time reports for this reached the double digits, was 12 in 1993.
  • Since its high of 451 in 1991, reported burglaries fell by 274, coming out as 177 in 2012.
  • There were an average of 2,099 reported index crimes in the early 1990s (1990–94). This dropped to a low of 678 in 2003. However, this has steadily been increasing in recent years, putting our current number of reported index crimes at 1,303 in 2012.

So, what does this say about the Tompkins area? In my opinion, it means we’re making progress. Why, I’m not sure. Maybe the population has mellowed out since the early 1990s, or maybe the police force has started cracking down on perpetrators.

If you have any other concerns or questions, I urge you to leave me a comment. I will obviously try to follow up on this topic more with the Ithaca Police Department, and maybe get some quotes from locals on how they feel about their neighborhoods. In the meantime, follow the Ithaca Police Department on Facebook and check out their website to stay up to date on things going on in the area.


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