Crime statistics can be misleading

09 May Crime statistics can be misleading

In recent years I have received calls and notes from realtors and people considering moving to the City.  They were alarmed by certain websites constructed in a way that presented misleading statistics about the volume and nature of criminal activity in and around Beaufort.

Three years ago, the Police Department created a document about crime statistics in Beaufort.  Recent calls lead me to republish it for those who may have forgotten or missed the post. As a reminder, these websites do not paint an accurate picture of our city.


Dec. 16, 2013


Frequently Asked Questions:

Beaufort Crime Statistics


  1. Is crime a problem in Beaufort, SC?

One crime is too many. Overall, and in context based on the number of people who live in Beaufort and who pass through each day on their way to jobs or as visitors/tourists, crime isn’t a problem. Across the entire city, we average just over two property crimes per day (shoplifting, bike thefts, burglary, theft of a car or truck). Violent crimes, the vast majority of them fights, happen even less often, about once every other day.


The Beaufort Police Department and our community are commended for working together to keep us all safe. This includes the strong help from Neighborhood Associations who do so much to unify, beautify and protect the neighborhood areas of Beaufort. We also provide School Resource Officers to schools within the city limits. These trained police officers work to prevent problems in schools before they happen, and to keep neighborhood issues from bubbling over into the schools.


  1. What do the statistics show for recent trends in local crime?

Since 2000, violent crime totals in City of Beaufort have averaged 164 per year (the total includes murder and non-negligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault). In all years, aggravated assault made up the majority of violent crimes with no more than two murders/non-negligent homicides in Beaufort annually back to 1993.


For instance, in 2012 there were 121 violent crimes reported in Beaufort. Of those, 81 were aggravated assault, 30 were robberies, eight were rape and two were murder/non-negligent homicides.


Property crimes include burglary (the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft), larceny (thefts of bicycles, motor vehicle parts and accessories, shoplifting) and motor vehicle theft. In the City of Beaufort, there has been an average of 813 property crimes reported each year since 2000. In 2012 there were 149 breaking and entering cases, 702 larcenies and 20 car or truck thefts.


As of October 31, 2013, in Beaufort there were no murders or non-negligent homicides; four rapes; 19 robberies; 73 aggravated assaults; 102 breaking and entering cases; 562 larcenies and 15 vehicle thefts. End of year reports will be available in early January 2014.


  1. Why do I find websites that show inaccurate information about crime rates in Beaufort and other areas?

As with so much available on the Internet, crime statistics are easily manipulated to make one location look better than others, to boost sales of products or homes in certain areas, and to support opinions.


One of the greatest challenges in comparing crime statistics is looking at numbers, populations and percentages. Since 2000, Beaufort’s population has been between 12,600 and 13,300. However, the Beaufort police serve a total population each day that ranges from 40,000 to 60,000 depending on the time of year. This includes people who move through the city on their way to work and become involved in accidents or crimes, as well as tourists and other visitors who swell the population.


“The number of crimes we report is as accurate as possible. We take great pride in that,” Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy says. The context of the numbers, however, is important:

  • Many of the crimes reported involve victims and perpetrators who don’t live in Beaufort
  • If Beaufort’s crime statistics are to be compared, they should be compared to a city with a population of about 60,000
  • When crimes do occur, Beaufort police outperform the national average for closing cases, according to a study by the International City/County Management Association reported. The FBI in 2009-2010 showed a national average for clearing cases of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft at 19.9 percent. The Beaufort Police Department cleared 35.4 percent (260 cases investigated, 92 cleared in 2010).
  • Most violent crimes occur late at night and typically involve alcohol or illegal drugs, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Chief Clancy says.
  • Thankfully, there are very, very few crimes committed against law-abiding people in the right place at the right time. “I am confident that if you surveyed people who live in Beaufort, they would tell you that Beaufort is a very safe community with low levels of crime,” Clancy says. “And, when crimes occur, we respond quickly with well-trained professional officers and investigators, and we solve more cases than the national average.”



  1. How are crime statistics misused, misread or misunderstood?

According to the FBI, where most national crime statistics are compiled:


Each year when Crime in the United States is published, many entities—news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our nation—use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents. 


Historically, the causes and origins of crime have been the subjects of investigation by many disciplines. Some factors that are known to affect the volume and type of crime occurring from place to place are:

  • Population density and degree of urbanization.
    • Variations in composition of the population, particularly youth concentration.
    • Stability of the population with respect to residents’ mobility, commuting patterns, and transient factors.
    • Modes of transportation and highway system.
    • Economic conditions, including median income, poverty level, and job availability.
    • Cultural factors and educational, recreational, and religious characteristics.
    • Effective strength of law enforcement agencies.
    • Administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement.
    • Citizens’ attitudes toward crime.
    • Crime reporting practices of the citizenry.


  1. What is the best source to check crime statistics for Beaufort?

Annual crime reports for the City of Beaufort are available at For additional information and a larger, national database, visit


The Beaufort Police are happy to meet with community groups, neighborhood associations and others to talk about crime prevention, statistics and how to keep Beaufort safe. Contact the Beaufort Police at 843- 322-7900 for details.


  1. For the typical resident or visitor, should crime be a concern?

The great majority of people in and visiting Beaufort are doing the right thing, at the right time in the right place. Their chances of being victims of crime are extremely low. Having said that, everyone should take basic precautions such as locking car doors and your home when away; keeping valuables out of sight in your vehicle; being aware of where you are and who’s around you; and contacting police or other law enforcement when there’s a problem.


  1. What steps can people take to lessen their chance of being a victim of crime in Beaufort?
  2. Be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing
  3. Stay away from trouble – that may mean avoiding certain nightspots after midnight, or avoiding parties where people overindulge in alcohol, or associating with “friends” with questionable judgment. Bad things sometimes happen to good people doing the right thing, but you can minimize your chances
  4. Lock your vehicle’s doors, all the time
  5. Keep valuables out of sight in your vehicle – in the trunk or glovebox, under the seat, anywhere that prying eyes can’t spot something worth breaking into your car to get
  6. Keep your home locked, and check all your windows – especially ground floor windows – to be sure they are secured
  7. Consider a home alarm system
  8. Be aware of what’s going on around you; stay away from walking into darkened allies late at night, and be careful walking to your car in a parking lot especially at night
  9. Move in a group. Most would-be attackers prey on the single person traveling alone and don’t want to fight a group of people.
  10. If in doubt, call law enforcement.