High crimes: Military towns are among the country's most dangerous

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Military bases and the neighborhoods surrounding them often seem like the ultimate refuge of middle- American values. Run with military efficiency and discipline, the well-trimmed yards, cleanly-paved roads and orderly layouts convey an ideal image of life as it should be: safe, peaceful and friendly.

However, as the horrific shootings in Fort Hood demonstrate, this perception of structure and normalcy may be deceptive. According to a study by NeighborhoodScout, which offers neighborhood-by-neighborhood crime analyses, some of America's military towns have crime levels that place them among the country's most dangerous neighborhoods. While the danger in these areas is much more heavily skewed toward property crimes like vandalism and theft than violent crimes like murder or rape, the statistics are startling.
Topping the list of America's ten worst military neighborhoods is Hawaii's Schofield Barracks. The area has an estimated 759 property crimes per 1,000 people -- more than 20 times the national average of 34 per 1,000 residents and fifteen times Hawaii's average. As a result, NeighborhoodScout ranks it as one of the worst neighborhoods in the country. Yet, Schofield Barracks's crime wave is largely comprised of property crimes, not violent crimes. While its property crime rate is more than twenty times the national average, its violent crime rate is (a comparatively minor) 49% higher than the median. This suggests that the large crime jumps in the area are more likely to involve robbery, theft, and motor vehicle theft.

Similarly, the second-ranked neighborhood, the Patton Road area near Alabama's Redstone Arsenal, has an estimated property crime rate of 691 per 1,000 residents. The remaining eight military neighborhoods -- Indiana's Grissom Joint Air Reserve Base, an area near Texas' Lackland AFB, Mississippi's Meridian Naval Air Station, California's Presidio of Monterey, Washington's Ault Field, and Hawaii's Kaneohe Station -- range between 410 and 155 property crimes per 1,000 residents.

So why do these ten neighborhoods have such high crime rates? According to Andrew Schiller, founder and president of NeighborhoodScout, the answer may lie in the demographics of the American military. Military bases tend to have high concentrations of young, single men living together in very close quarters. Schiller has also found similar property crime spikes in other areas -- like college student neighborhoods -- that have large concentrations of single males living together. One possible explanation for these surges in crime rates could be that young men, separated from their parents, wives, families and communities, may feel more temptation to commit certain types of crimes.

Ironically, NeighborhoodScout reports that military neighborhoods as a whole tend to be considerably safer than most of the country. America has 300 neighborhoods in which at least 20% of the population is in the military. In these areas, the median property crime rate is 32 per 1,000 residents, which is 7% below the national average. The violent crime rate is even more striking: at 1.55 crimes per 1,000 residents, it is an impressive 67% lower than the average.

To find out how NeighborhoodScout came up with these numbers, read its methodology. Also, to see its disclaimer, click here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included the military neighborhoods surrounding Myrtle Beach AFB and England AFB, both of which are now defunct and no longer fall within NeighborhoodScout's criteria. For clarity's sake, we have removed all mention of these bases from the story.

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September 07 2011 at 12:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply