Have Crime Rates in Androscoggin County been “Doubling or Higher” Since Somali Immigrants Arrived?
For a few years now, I’ve been looking into the persistent notion some people have that Somali immigrants have somehow plunged the city of Lewiston, Maine into an unprecedented crime wave. If you look into actual crime statistics, you’ll find out pretty quickly that this anti-immigrant perception is simply not based in systematically observed fact. In the 15 years before Somali immigrants started arriving in Lewiston in 2001, property and violent crime rates were actually higher than they’ve been in the 15 years since Somali immigrants started making Lewiston their home.
Some people get upset when I point this out, and try to find ways in which it might somehow be possible to blame Somali immigrants for crime in Lewiston. This past week, someone with the pseudonym of GrimmTale stretched in an unusually creative direction, insisting that Lewiston crime rates may be lower since Somali immigrants came to town, but that’s just because Somali immigrants living in Lewiston have been sneakily riding cars, busses, and bicycles to nearby towns to commit crimes there. GrimmTale comments:
“Let’s be real here – if there’s nothing in a poverty stricken town to steal, mug, rob, assault – you go to the next town which has affluent (or anything better than in your own town) residents. It’s something anyone with any sense of logic can figure out. Beautiful Maine is falling victim to the effects of wayward immigration, and it will be too late before anything is done to save her. Pity really.”
GrimmTale insists that the towns neighboring Lewiston have suffered a crime “spike” since Somali immigrants began to arrive in 2001, with a “doubling or higher” in the crime rate around Lewiston.
I promised GrimmTale that I’d check out this interesting claim, and earlier this week I found that in the towns directly adjacent to Lewiston that are big enough to be listed in the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States reports, there absolutely has not been any “doubling or higher” of either the violent crime rate or the property crime rate. Strike One against GrimmTale’s claim.
To further settle this question, let’s take a look at crime rates for the entirety of Androscoggin County, Maine, the county within which Lewiston, Maine is centrally located. Here are the property crime rate and violent crime rate trends for Androscoggin County between 2000, the year before Somali immigrants began to settle in Lewiston, and 2013, the last year for which crime statistics are available:
Do you see a “doubling or higher” in the crime rate of Androscoggin County, the place that surrounds the city of Lewiston, Maine? No. If anything, there’s been a slight decline. (Data source: Maine Department of Public Safety)
With a crime rate below the national average, Lewiston Maine is not an unusually dangerous place to live. With a concentration of darker-skinned faces in the single most pasty state of the Union, it is noticeably different. Don’t fear the difference. Embrace it. Try a visit and make a fun day of it. Check out this summer’s art exhibitions and dance festival at Bates College. Check out a show at The Public Theater. Go hiking and birding, then grab a brew. And hey, the rest of Androscoggin County’s all right too.