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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.

28 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.

  • walter

    Bull

    Where non white immigrants come in droves so does the crime . Africans especially are racist towards whites.
    You libturds have screwed up Maine.

  • Average Joe

    Sorry Jim Cook but you’re not entirely right when you say crime did not go up since the mass immigration of Somalis into Lewiston began. The fact is violent crime did go up, property crime did dip down somewhat in the previous decade but has since risen back up in the last several years to just under it’s pre 2001 rates. While property crime is terrible it’s violent crime that has much more serious consequences for society. The above posted city data link shows that violent crime per 100,000 rose drastically during the first year of Somali immigration from 104.2 in 2000 when there were no Somalis to 141.6 in 2001 the first year of Somali immigration. Violent crime then rose throughout the decade reaching a high in 2007, then declined slightly in the latter part of the decade, however overall violent crime is up since the first Somalis came to Lewsiton particularly robberies from 28 in 2000 to 43 in 2012. The data doesn’t give a racial breakdown of perpetrators but I would almost guarantee that Somalis are overrepresented in the ranks of perpetrators. There have been many proven problems with Somali immigration, from gangs and members of the community seeking to join the ranks of terrorists groups to an over reliance on welfare and other social welfare programs that work to the detriment of the struggling American poor and the taxpayer. Anyone who advocates increased Somali immigration is an obvious fool.

    • You’re cherrypicking what came before, “Average Joe,” to just 2000. If you look at the long-term average before 2001, you’ll see non-Somali Lewiston had big, big crime problems, much bigger than Lewiston now.

      Look at this update, which bears out the truth that Lewiston, Maine had a much bigger crime problem BEFORE Somali immigrants arrived in town than it has had SINCE Somali immigrants came to town: http://irregulartimes.com/2014/11/18/did-somali-immigrants-really-plunge-lewiston-maine-into-crime-fact-check-says/ . You just can’t argue with the numbers.

      • Average Joe

        There has been a general decrease in crime countrywide since the 1980s and 90s for a variety of reasons. The end of the “crack era”, police departments using complain statistics to target higher crime areas and even from one study the legalization of abortion in the early 70s have all contributed to declining crime rates nationwide. However as I’ve pointed out that decline has been arrested and violent crime rates have even risen in Lewiston Maine during the decade of mass Somali immigration demonstrating at the very least a correlation between Somalis and crime. There have been numerous Somali American suicide bombers overseas and in 2013 the federal government was looking at possible ties between Al Shabab militants in Somalia and Kenya and the Somali American community in Maine. There are even documented ties from Somali street gangs in Portland to the Boston bomber brothers. As I ve stated the existence of criminal and terrorist Somali American gangs is well documented. Check out this linked LA times article for more info. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-boston-bombing-gun-20140513-story.html

  • Average Joe

    There has been a general decrease in crime countrywide since the 1980s and 90s for a variety of reasons. The end of the “crack era”, police departments using complain statistics to target higher crime areas and even from one study the legalization of abortion in the early 70s have all contributed to declining crime rates nationwide. However as I’ve pointed out that decline has been arrested and violent crime rates have even risen in Lewiston Maine during the decade of mass Somali immigration demonstrating at the very least a correlation between Somalis and crime. There have been numerous Somali American suicide bombers overseas and in 2013 the federal government was looking at possible ties between Al Shabab militants in Somalia and Kenya and the Somali American community in Maine. There are even documented ties from Somali street gangs in Portland to the Boston bomber brothers. As I ve stated the existence of criminal and terrorist Somali American gangs is well documented. Check out this linked LA times article for more info. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-boston-bombing-gun-20140513-story.html

    • Jim Cook

      With all due respect, that has got to be the shiftiest argumentation I’ve read in some time. I notice you’re not even talking about Somali immigrants in Lewiston any more. You’re talking about Somali immigrants in a different American city, and then you’re talking about people in Somalia in Africa.

      • Average Joe

        1) I specifically mentioned the Somali American community in Maine which really only exists in Lewiston and to a lesser extent Portland. I made no mention of other Somali American communities in Columbus Ohio or Minnesota although they have the same high violent crime rates and sky high rates of public assistance as the community in Maine. 2) Calling my argument “shitty” does not refute it. I noticed you didn’t even comment on the LA Times article which mentions the existence of Somali street gangs in Maine with terrorist ties. You have also failed to explain why Lewiston bucked the nationwide trend of declining violent crime rates during the decade of Somali immigration. Look at the city of Los Angeles for example during the same decade, it has shown a consistent drop in violent crime from the year 2000 as has the nation as a whole, Lewiston on the other hand has not, it’s violent crime rate dropped until the year 2000 then it rose during the past decade to where it has since stayed. There is a correlation between Somali immigration in Lewiston Maine and violent crime, it’s that simple.

        • Jim Cook

          I didn’t call it “shitty.” I called it “shifty,” as in a shift. You have shifted observations from Lewiston, Maine to all sorts of other places, cherry-picking observations to fit your preconceptions.

          But if you’re going to shift, at least get it right. Crime in Minneapolis is DOWN, not UP, since Somali immigrants came to town: http://irregulartimes.com/2014/11/23/are-the-racists-right-is-minneapolis-more-violent-since-somali-immigrants-arrived/

          If the existence of an article noting that Somali-American criminals exist proves Somali Americans are awful, then the existence of an article noting that white criminals exist proves that white Americans are awful. Neither is true. Both are examples of cherry-picking relying on confirmation bias. If you go looking for examples of Somalis who commit crimes, congratulations, you’ll find them, because members of every group commit crimes. If you go looking for examples of whites who commit crimes, congratulations, you’ll find them, too. Since the arrival of Somalis, the crime rate has not increased. It just hasn’t. Period.

          I encourage everyone to go to UCRdatatool.gov to verify that the Lewiston property crime rate is down between 2001, the year Somali immigrants began to arrive, and 2012, the last year available in the dataset. The Lewiston violent crime rate is the same in 2001 and 2012. Both rates are FAR lower than the rates of the 1980s and 1990s, when Lewiston was lily white. Over the same period, the violent crime rate in next-door Augusta, Maine — which does NOT have a significant Somali population — has doubled, and the property crime rate has gone up by over 20%. By your logic, this would mean that white people are a menace. The violent crime rate in Bangor, Maine has gone up during the period too, and there aren’t a significant number of Somali immigrants there. Oh, those evil White people again! Biddeford, Maine has seen crime rates boom during the same period. No big Somali immigration there. My goodness, by your logic, the crackers are out to get my children! Waterville, Maine (no significant Somali immigration) has seen violent crime rates triple during the same period while property crime rates have risen by about 10%. Waterville is only 1.1% Black/African-American according to the latest available Census figures (factfinder.census.gov). It’s 94% White. Is the Whiteness of the Watervillians making them Watervillains?

          Or does all that not count because it doesn’t fit your cherrypicking?

          • Jim Cook

            Crime rates are down in Columbus Ohio, too, over the period in which Somali immigrants came to the city. The population of Somali immigrants compared to the population of Columbus overall is a drop in the bucket.

            It’s funny you should mention Columbus, Ohio. I lived in Columbus for a few years, right in the heart of the city. I taught chess to school-kids, including my son, who went to school with the Somali immigrants. I remember beautiful, kind, open-hearted people.

  • Nick Toto

    Dude I don’t give a rats ass what statistics say. I live in auburn and am from Portland. This place is a sewer. Lewiston is close to a third world country. You can read all the data you want but until you go walk down those streets I don’t want to hear it. The place is a sewer. It’s never been a great area and now we have freeloaders and drunks and drug addicts making it worse then ever.

  • New Lewiston Resident

    Hey Jim, Thanks for this website. I’m going to be moving to Lewiston in a few months. I want to stay anonymous, so I’d rather not explain what field I’m in, but essentially I had a choice between richer, nicer, but less diverse cities across the country and Lewiston with it’s Somali population. I chose Lewiston because of it’s diversity (and it’s proximity to Portland and Montreal, to be fair). But so many people I speak to love to take a crap on Lewiston. I’m sure it has it’s issues, but I also saw this trend on City Data and being a data driven person, I couldn’t explain why people are talking so negatively about this city. If you compare it to other cities in Maine, it’s 4th or 5th or something like that, and Maine as a state has some of the lowest crime rates in the country. I hate to call the Lewiston haters racist, but the data do not support this conclusion that it’s this third world place with super high crime, so I really am left scratching my head. Maybe I will find out more when I move there, but in any case, it’s nice to see people like yourself offering a more objective analysis…

    • chad kinney

      Lewiston downtown has actually seen a resurgence of new businesses especially in the old Bates Mill complex. They have made and continue to make remarkable improvements to the infrastructure. In 2007 Lewiston was named an all american city which only one other city has that distinction, Auburn!! L/A is one of only a few cities in Maine that has seen any significant economic growth in the past 4 years and continues to this day. Yes, the downtown Lisbon street buildings needs to be refurbished, but try to remember a lot of these buildings are over 100 years old. The suburbs of Lewiston are just as safe or safer than any comparable sized city in Maine and are beautifully maintained for the most part. Bates college has grown tremendously in the last 10 years and is one of the finest little Ivy schools in the nation. Portland people seem to be the ones commenting on L/A’s shortfalls because Lewistons population has increased by 10% since 2010 and with the possible collaboration with incorporating Auburn and Lewiston into one city it could become the most populated in Maine and Portland doesn’t want to loose that status. I love L/A and always will.

  • Charlie Cameron

    I am in a classroom everyday at a school with 30% ELL students (English Language Learners)in Lewiston, Maine. AND I grew up in Lewiston, now 52 years of age. I can tell you first hand there has been a shameful change in the community. Even at the elementary level parents are afraid to send their kids to school for fear of them being beaten up or worse. I would not live in that community, and don’t feel comfortable when I have to go into downtown Lewiston around the Superintendent’s office, (near Kennedy park). Back in the day the Franco Americans used to work and live in this community. They were the backbone of Lewiston Auburn, working in the shoe shops and owned the Mom and Pop stores. Everyone knew each other and you couldn’t get away with much. We had party lines, everyone spoke French…ahhh, those were the days.

    • Charlie Cameron

      The data doesn’t show the heart and soul of what the community was…or is. Talk to people who live there. It is a depressed, dangerous place to live, comparatively to the rest of Maine.

    • Jim Cook

      Charlie,

      In 1985, when you were a youngster in Lewiston, before Somalis began to immigrate, the violent crime rate stood at 553.8 violent crimes per year per 100,000 population. The property crime rate stood at 7,262.9 property crimes per year per 100,000 population.

      In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, the violent crime rate stood at 244.4 violent crimes per year per 100,000 population. That’s less than half the 1985 rate. The property crime rate stood at 3,341.3 property crimes per year per 100,000 population. That’s less than half the 1985 rate.

      Source: FBI Crime in the United States reports.

      You’re right that the data describing actual trends don’t reflect your heart and soul. You might want to examine the latter.

  • Charles Manning

    It’s clear that most if not all who take issue with the statistics believe that Somalis are inferior to whites with respect to inherent traits that cause involvement with the criminal justice system. I strongly disagree.

    Belief among non-Somalis that Somalis are inferior makes it harder for Somalis to avoid involvement in our criminal justice system: they must be more likely to be suspected of crime, more likely to be arrested, less able to make bail, less able to hire competent legal counsel, and likely to be judged in court by person who deem them inferior. Additionally, Somalis undoubtedly are less wealthy than non-Somalis, because, among other things, their ancestors had less wealth to pass on to them; because they entered Maine society less well educated than non-Somalis and encountered language barriers; and because on average, as immigrants, they’re younger than non-Somalis in the U.S.

    I suspect that arrest, conviction, and incarceration rates among Somalis, like those of Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans everywhere in the U.S., are higher because of circumstances like those I’ve mentioned, not inherent racial or ethnic traits. The higher rates among Somalis could exist despite the general decline in crime you’ve properly cited. Many of the commenters seem to be taking issue not with your argument that the overall crime rate is lower, but with the perception – which is understandable, but not logical – that you’re claiming there’s a low crime rate among Somalis.

    If my suspicion about the crime rate for Somalis is correct, increased awareness among non-Somalis of why the higher rates occur among Somalis would make it more likely that institutional changes could be brought about to enable Somalis, like other immigrant groups, to become more like the non-Somali population with respect to involvement in the criminal justice system. So I hope you’ll look at whether there is indeed a Somali/non-Somali disparity, with respect both to involvement in the criminal justice system and to causative factors like those I’ve mentioned. You could present that evidence to your readers, along with suggestions for institutional changes to deal with the problem constructively. On the other hand, if the involvement of Somalis in the criminal justice system is equal to or less than the involvement of other groups, that fact certainly needs to be publicized.

  • John Blackman

    Go to Maine Medical Center, place is flooded with them! Housekeeping Dept. Go into your room and steal anything not nailed down, parking attendants rifle through your car, get it backed stripped. Had my car back end dented in, didn’t see it until I got home. MMC allows them to pray when the urge strikes them, walk down hallways all you see are Somali butts in the air, like an obstacle course, every other employee has scheduled breaks, they can take 20 minute prayer breaks whenever God talks to them or when they don’t feel like working which ever comes first!
    Portland has a program that they will ” cosign” a car loan up to $8500 for them. They are truly a scurge on what used to be Maine. Hope they change the sign at the border to ” THE WAY LIFE USED TO BE”!

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