Living in a safe community

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

The long Labor Day weekend provided the opportunity to slow down a bit and catch up on some reading material that has accumulated over the course of the past couple of weeks. Two of the reports I read included “Safest Cities to Live in Ohio 2019” and the “Most Dangerous Cities in the United States 2019.” Interestingly, they both arrived on my doorstep within two days of each other.

Let’s begin with the list of the 100 safest cities to live in Ohio 2019. Interestingly, the list of the 100 safest cities in Ohio included 10 townships, so strictly speaking, it was in reality a listing of the 90 safest cities in Ohio (no self-respecting township I know would claim to be a city.)

However, the important point is that Sidney made the list, as did our neighbors in Piqua, Troy, Greenville and Urbana. Noticeably missing from the list were Bellefontaine, Wapakoneta, Celina and Tipp City.

For those who may not know, a city is a municipality that has a population of 5,000 or more. Conversely, a village is a municipality with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. Based on the 2010 Census, there are currently 933 municipalities in Ohio, 247 of which are cities.

Of course, making the list of the 100 most dangerous cities in the United States 2019 is not something to which any mayor would aspire. Unfortunately, this list did include three Ohio cities, including Canton, Cleveland and Cincinnati. I’ve been downtown in each of those cities within the past year and will have to say that I’ve had the opposite reaction; I’ve felt safe in all of these cities.

I’ve also visited at least 10 of the top 25 most dangerous cities on the list of the most dangerous cities in the United States 2019, places like Milwaukee, Myrtle Beach, Kansas City and Cleveland. Perhaps I’ve just been fortunate, but I’ve never had occasion to feel unsafe.

Unfortunately, making the list is our nation’s capital ranked 74th on the list this year. According to the report, the chance of being the victim of a violent crime in Washington, DC is 1 in 100. Again, having visited Washington on more than one occasion in the past year and walking extensively during my visits (several miles each day), I never had occasion to feel unsafe — a bit tired at the end of the day, but not unsafe!

Whenever visiting any city, it is important to remember a few basic personal safety rules, and to always be aware of your surroundings. Despite being careful, if you find yourself the victim of a crime, contact a police officer. In most cities, simply call 911. Some larger cities have 311, a service that provides information in non-emergency situations (things like a lost wallet may be an emergency to you, but it’s certainly not the same as having been assaulted or robbed); 311 calls are answered 24 hours a day by a live operator.

We are fortunate to live in a relatively safe community. We can thank the Sidney Police Department for their efforts to keep us safe — something that many residents recognize.

In fact, a local non-profit that has been a part of the local community for more than a century recently commissioned a study to assist them in their work. As a part of that study, more than 50 individuals were interviewed and the interviewers spent countless hours collecting data. The subsequent report was more than 125 pages in length.

Although the study was for internal consumption of the commissioning organization only, it contained some very positive comments about our community. I asked if I could share those comments, and permission was granted. Those comments included:

• Small-town atmosphere. Not a lot of hustle and bustle or heavy traffic to deal with. Family-oriented, to some degree. Eclectic. A farming and industrial community. Not crime-ridden. Police officers are pretty much involved in the community. Larger supporting services are connected.

• The police department has a lot of caring individuals. The social service system has a lot of strengths.

• There are more jobs than people here. We can’t fill technical or managerial jobs. There’s 2-3 percent unemployment. Very active in recruiting new business. Sidney is proactive for the size town it is. A task force addresses drug traffic.

• A nice, friendly community. Mostly don’t see crime. We have a lot of industry. People can surely find a job. Great parks. A lot of different things to get involved in. Always looking for volunteers with different organizations. Elected officials get along well.

• A lot of historical buildings to check out. Crime is very rare. Great parks. Walking trails. A lot of jobs available.

• A small city with exceptional generosity. Low crime. The community collaborates well.

• It’s called an All-American City. It has grown. It’s a pretty safe city. I sometimes don’t lock my doors. A pretty good police department.

I think sometimes we take for granted the many benefits of living in a community that values taking responsibility for our personal actions. Most residents live proactively with clear intentions, understanding that our lives are a reflection of our own personal decisions. Most importantly, we understand the influence we can have on others through leading by example.

Let us be grateful for living in a community that is relatively safe, and continue to work to keep it that way. And, the next time you see a police officer, thank her or him for their efforts.

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.