Springfield Police say the list, for many reasons, could be misleading.
The website used data from the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report. The list was put together based on total number of rapes reported by law enforcement agencies.
While even one of these crimes is too many, Springfield police say landing a spot on the list isn’t necessarily accurate.
“We just don’t want people to put a lot of faith in these lists thinking we really are one of the most sexually violent cities in America,” said Springfield Police Department Spokeswoman Lisa Cox.
With 281 rapes reported in 2013, Springfield took the number 14 spot on the list of the 24 most sexually violent small cities in America.
With a population of just over 164,000 people, the list shows Springfield falling one place behind St. Louis– a city with more than 318,000 people. Springfield was one spot in front of Wichita, Kansas.
“The methodology these marketing companies use are not very credible,” said Cox. “They say they use FBI uniform crime report numbers, which is true, but the way they manipulate the numbers to compare city to city doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only are they comparing numbers and cities that shouldn’t be compared, but they’re not taking population into account or anything like that.”
The list was completed using the FBI’s revised definition of rape.
“It basically expands the definition,” said Cox. “So that not only the rapes we were qualifying as rapes before would count, but some sexual assaults now fall into that category.”
Cox says while Springfield uses the new rape definition, some other states don’t.
Seattle, Washington took the number 24 spot with 153 rapes reported. Philadelphia was number one, with more than 1,000 rapes reported in 2013.
“If you take a look at the FBI’s uniform crime report website, they have a disclaimer there saying don’t use these numbers to make comparisons between city to city,” said Cox. “And time and time again, we see these marketing companies come out with lists doing just that. We aren’t saying the data we have is necessarily false information, it’s just the way they compare us to other cities and put us in a list that is false.”
“I don’t really know the validity of it,” said Brandi Bartel with The Victim Center. “With that being said, I do appreciate the fact these types of reports bring to the forefront an opportunity to talk about and address and recognize Springfield does have a concern for sexually violent crimes and we are not immune from those types of crimes in our community.”
The Victim Center in Springfield saw a 19 percent increase in the number of people it served last year compared to the year before.
“Even if it means more people are getting help and reporting and we are doing a better job helping victims, you’re still identifying a problem there to begin with,” said Bartel.
Since 2013, the number of reported rapes in Springfield has slightly trended downward. 266 rapes were reported in 2014, compared to the 281 in 2013.
“Instead of comparing ourselves to other cities, we need to compare ourselves to ourselves and look at what happened last year, five years ago, ten years ago, and see how our own city is doing with these problems,” said Cox.
A problem the Springfield Police Department and The Victim Center hope will continue to decrease.
“Any number of rapes is too many obviously,” said Cox. “So yes, we do have too many in that account. But to say we have this many and Columbia has this many, it just doesn’t say a whole lot.”
Cox says usually the victims of a sexually violent crime will know the suspects. It’s usually someone they trust like a family member or a friend.
If you are a victim of a sexually violent crime and would like help, you can contact The Victim Center’s 24-hour hotline at 417-864-SAFE that’s 417-864-7233.