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Fact Check: is Lewiston, Maine riddled with Crime since Somali Immigrants Came to Town?

When I listen to people talk about the most “dangerous” places to live in Maine, the city of Lewiston constantly comes up. You wouldn’t want to live in Lewiston, people tell me. All the Somalis have made Lewiston a dangerous place to live, they say. You can see these kind of remarks online, too:

Madeleine, October 2012:

"Hey Happy Somali. Your Kinsman are behaving like entitled jerks. Why?

Do you think it's OKAY to come here to the USA and get away with lawlessness?... When your kinsmen come here, the quote of "YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT" applies. So show some respect. Stop your kinsmen from attacking old ladies and bringing in gangs to fight with the natives in Lewiston and Auburn.

Stop your kinsmen from sex trafficking and other illegal and evil crimes."

Feces Peces, Augusta 2012:

"Lewiston used to be a beautiful place in synch with the rest of Maine. Now that some putrid trash libs imported these people Lewiston is a crime ridden run? down dump. I wish I could put into words the utter disdain we have for liberal fecal matter. I just can't think of a strong enough word to label vile pig liberals with."

DrewciferFSA, October 2012:

"I grew up in downtown Lewiston from 1982 until 2003, it's been a dump as far as I can remember. From what I've seen? when I go back to visit, the Somali's certainly didn't help.
It seemed to go from just poor alcoholics to a more violent type. Glad I'm 1400 miles away now."

Ancient Legacy, February 2011:

"Somali refugees completely fucked up Maine.
Instead of assimilating into maine and into the american way of life, they brought their crime, gangs, bad habits, and disgusting behavior to? maine.
They've made lewiston into a "little Somalia" basically turning it into a shit hole.
Fuck you somali's go back to your damn country, stop fucking ours up."

Stuff Black People Don’t Like, September 2012:

Lawrence Auster made mention of the importation of crime to Lewiston that came with the “Great Somali Wave of 2002″ back in an entry at View from the Right in 2009. Well, CNS News (CNSNEWS.com) published a hard-hitting article on July 25, 2012 that dared to expose the importation of “crime that normally only Black people in America will commit” courtesy of Somali refugee…

Is this all true? Has Lewiston, Maine descended into crime because of the influx of Somali immigrants?

It’s time for a fact check.

Lewiston, Maine is almost a perfect test case for this sort of claim because the history of Somali immigration is recent and well-documented: the very first Somali family moved to the city of Lewiston in 2001, and having recommended the city to other Somalis, triggered an influx soon afterward (on this point, see Andrew Cullen’s history of Somali immigration to Lewiston in the Kennebec Sun Journal). 2001 is the clear date marking Lewiston before Somalis and Lewiston after Somalis.

If the presence of Somali immigrants led to high crime rates, then crime report data from the FBI (here and here)should show the crime rate in Lewiston rising from a lower pre-2001 level to a higher post-2001 level.

Here’s the data, courtesy of the Uniform Crime Reports:

Violent Crime in Lewiston is lower since Somalis immigrated.

Violent crime in Lewiston is actually lower than average since the arrival of Somali immigrants.

Property Crime in Lewiston is down since Somalis arrived.

Property crime in Lewiston is actually lower than average since the arrival of Somali immigrants.

Reality doesn’t support the racist delusion of a Somali crime wave in Lewiston. It’s a shame that reality hasn’t stopped people from spreading race-based tall tales of danger.

9 comments to Fact Check: is Lewiston, Maine riddled with Crime since Somali Immigrants Came to Town?

  • manning120

    Anti-immigrant bigotry exists everywhere. Down where I live in South Texas, there’s a proposal to have DNA analysis done of the remains of persons found dead without adequate identification in areas known to be used by people from south of the U.S. border, generally Hispanics, who come here without legal sanction, usually being brought by human traffickers, and died during their journey toward where they intended to work. The DNA evidence would be used to identify the deceased so that relatives could find out they died. When a newspaper article about this appeared in Corpus Christi, the same type of bigoted comments (although not quite as vitriolic as the ones in Maine) appeared. Basically, those writers said the people who died were “scum” and, instead of identifying them, their remains should be summarily destroyed or put in boxes and shipped back where they came from (of course, no one would know where they came from if they couldn’t be identified). This type of bigotry was manifested even though more than 50% of the population in South Texas is of Hispanic origin.

  • Bill

    When we moved from our old home in the north (a city with 217 murders last year) to our current home in the South near a comparably sized city (yet only 26 murders last year), my new neighbor was just trying to be helpful when he warned me never to go into the city at night because “the blacks take over and kill anything that moves.” Ah. Uh-huh.

    The great thing about bigotry is that it’s self-validating, because believing is seeing.

  • Terry

    The problem is with media, they report all the Somali crimes so it seems as though they are the ones increasing crime in the city. The current goal of media is to incite a race war, what do you expect?

  • Joshua Jackson

    Haha, hate to burst your bubble but u need to read your charts again. Crime rates steadily increased. Then dropped off a little back to where it was when they first showed up. And property crime only went down because there wasnt any crap to steal from themselves. And if you look at the end of your pretty chart property crime spiked once the gov’t funding kicked in and they all went and bought crap with our tax money. So to say the least… you cant foolc me. And if anyone believes this retoric go down to Lewiston and see for yourself!

    • Jim Cook

      The data don’t reveal anything like that, Joshua. What you’ve created is an after-the-fact story that is consistent with your pre-existing bigotry.

  • Benjamin Holmes

    Firstly I am not racist or bigot and I do have some Somalian friends. With that being said I have lived in the Lewiston/Auburn area for a combined 7 years (2+5) to the present day. I lived here as a teenager and now as an adult. In middle school and high school the Somalian students kept to their groups but after school I was often attacked by them on my walk home. Not just the boys either a girl slapped me in the face because she doesn’t like stupid white boys. I never even spoke to her before that. I was just walking by. I was at least harassed at the very least by different groups. After freshman year of high schooI moved to my dads in northern maine. After college I moved back to lewiston got a job and had a family. My eldest boy was jumped by four Somalian boys who “hate white n******s” they choked him punched him and threw sand in his eyes. We called the police who basically did nothing but release the Somalian boys to their parents. That violent crime won’t show up on your statistics. Plus this wasn’t the only time my kids were hit. Since then my family has been a target of many aggressions. I have had a brick in my wind shield, my tires cut, keyed, sand in my gas, stolen bicycles, a break in, and death threats. We have moved twice already. His old classroom had 30-50% Somalian children and even the teachers admit they have a hard time. The old bus driver told me there isn’t a thing he can do so instead we drive our kids to school. They tell my kids constantly that Jesus is dead and he is satan etc. I got my boy into a private school to avoid more violence he goes to Saint Doms. I am not alone there are other parents and neighbors with similar concerns. I have called the police so many times and we talk and I hear of awful things happening all over. A few years ago a few of the shops on Lisbon st near the library had signs saying “No Whites Allowed”. Look it up in our local newspaper the Sun Journal. Of course not all Somalians are this way, one of my neighbor’s now are Somalian and they take good care of their children and are respectful. They keep a clean home and my boy and theirs are friends. I would say that overall lewiston auburn is not a great place to live. After I am able to move my business else where I will.

    • Jim Cook

      No, actually, Benjamin, that assault would show up in the police statistics, because the Uniform Crime Reports deal with occurrences, not arrests or convictions. Consider:
      1. It’s awful that your family has been assaulted by Somalis.
      2. It’s also just as awful that other families in Lewiston have been assaulted by non-Somalis.
      3. It is also true that since Somalis moved to Lewiston, the crime rate has gone down, not up. These three statements can all be simultaneously true.

      • Benjamin Holmes

        Here try this link http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Lewiston-Maine.html it shows how crime rate has increased. The crime rate goes from 104 to 178 to 130 as it has increased. These appear to be the same data points in the graph above.

        • Jim Cook

          Benjamin,

          No, it doesn’t show anything of the sort.

          First of all, the crime rate as displayed on that page goes DOWN from 319.5 in 2001, the year that Somalis started arriving in Lewiston, to 2012, the latest available year with crime rate data.

          Second of all, that crime rate data doesn’t go well back in time to the decades before Somalis started arriving in Lewiston. Full Uniform Crime Reports data (on which city-data.com bases its graph) going back to 1985 shows that Lewiston had a far higher crime rate in the years before Somalis started to arrive.

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