Sidney again makes list of Ohio’s safest cities

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

Among the dozens of reports that cross my desk, the Safest Cities in Ohio — 2020 arrived this week. Given the rather depressing COVID-19 news that has dominated nearly every facet of our daily lives for the past several weeks, I thought sharing a bit of good news would be welcome.

The report, issued by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, notes that “……..the outlook on crime in Ohio is fairly positive, as the state’s 2018 violent crime rate of 2.8 offenses per 1,000 people was about 24% lower than the national average, while its property crime rate was just a notch lower than nationwide levels. However, Ohio’s safest cities do even better, boasting low crime rates on par with the best of the nation.”

As I mentioned last year when I received a similar report, the list of the 100 safest cities in Ohio includes eleven townships. As a result and strictly speaking, the list is in reality a listing of the 89 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 Bellefontaine, Greenville, Troy, and Urbana.

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.

Making the list of the 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the United States 2020 is not something to which any mayor would aspire. Unfortunately, this list did include four Ohio cities, including Cleveland (ranked 16th), Canton (36th), Dayton (83rd), and Akron (96th). I’ve been in the downtowns of each of those cities at least once within the past year and have not had occasion to feel unsafe. Of course, I have generally been visiting with mayors in city halls, and it has been my experience that security is a bit tighter in those locations.

I’ve also visited more than half the cities on the list of the Most Dangerous Cities in the United States 2020 during the course of my life. Perhaps I’ve just been fortunate, but I’ve never had occasion to feel unsafe when visiting any of them.

Unfortunately, making the list of our country’s most dangerous cities is our nation’s capital. Washington, DC moved from the 74th most dangerous city in the country in 2019 to the 67th most dangerous 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!

Any time you are out and about, 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 dial 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.

A local non-profit that has been a part of the local community for more than a century commissioned a study in 2019. As a part of that study, more than fifty individuals were interviewed with the interviewers spending countless hours collecting data. The subsequent report was more than 125 pages in length.

Although the study was for the internal use of the commissioning organization, 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% 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.