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Real Ogden: What’s the city’s ‘most dangerous’ area? It’s a complex question.

August 9, 2017

Ogden police, officials share thoughts on city's 'most dangerous' neighborhoods

Brightly painted homes and apartment buildings line Jefferson Avenue near 23rd Street. The area is part of the Ogden City-designated East Central neighborhood.

By MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner staff

A survey exploring perceptions of Ogden shows many people believe the East Central neighborhood is the city’s most perilous.

But making a definitive judgment on which area of the city actually is the most dangerous is complex, city officials say.

RELATED: See the full survey results here

As part of the ongoing Real Ogden project, the Standard-Examiner surveyed 527 people — most of whom live in and around Ogden — asking respondents to offer thoughts on the city’s neighborhoods. Ogden’s 18 planning districts, which are defined in the city’s General Plan, were used to bisect the city into small, digestible sections.

A map of the planning districts — as well as two maps showing where survey respondents think the most crime happens in Ogden — are shown below. Each survey respondent could cast "votes" for multiple neighborhoods.

One question in the survey asked which Ogden neighborhoods they think experience the most violent crime.

The city’s East Central neighborhood — loosely bordered by 20th street to the north, 30th street to the south, Adams Avenue to the west and Harrison Boulevard to the east — received 288 votes. 

East Central was followed closely by the West Ogden area with 237 votes and the Jefferson neighborhood, which got 233 votes. The city’s Railyard area (165 votes), Central Business District (138 votes) and T.O. Smith neighborhood (122 votes), which is immediately south of East Central, rounded out the top six. 

None of the other 12 planning districts received more than 100 votes. Those who took the survey — which we'll point out wasn’t scientific — could select more than one neighborhood in their responses.

When asked which neighborhoods see the most non-violent crime, East Central got 188 votes, West Ogden got 152, the Central Business District got 140, Jefferson got 126 and Southeast Ogden got 113. None of the other neighborhoods had more than 100 votes. 

The Ogden Police Department patrols the city in eight policing districts, which are shown in the map below. According to data provided by the OPD, district three — which is bordered by Seventh and 21st streets and Washington and Harrison boulevards — has had the most part-one crimes reported during the last five years.

(Here's a larger version of the map that can be zoomed in on, if you're having a hard time reading the one below.)

Story continues below the map.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, part-one crimes include like homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, thefts and arsons.

From June 26, 2012, to June 26, 2017, there were 4,324 part-one crimes reported in the third policing district. None of the other seven districts reached 3,000 part-one crimes during that same period.

But while those numbers seem to indicate district three is the most menacing area of Ogden, that’s probably not the case.

Capt. Danielle Croyle, public information officer for the Ogden Police Department, said over the last half-decade, the district has had an inordinately high number of shoplifting cases. And though shoplifting falls under the U.S. Department of Justice-defined part-one crime umbrella, it’s an offense undoubtedly less threatening than things like homicide, rape and assault.

Croyle said the geographic sizes and populations of the districts also have to be considered. 

During the past five years, Ogden’s second and eighth policing districts had 2,921 and 2,705 part-one crimes, respectively. Those districts had the second- and third-most part-one crimes among the policing districts, but those districts are the department’s largest in both population and size.

The second district constitutes the northeast corner of Ogden, generally including everything north of Seventh Street and east of Washington Boulevard. The eighth district is the southeast corner of the city and includes portions of the city south of 27th Street and east of Jefferson Avenue.

Policing district four — bordered by Washington Boulevard, Madison Boulevard, 21st Street and 30th Street — is by far the smallest in terms of square miles, but there were 2,171 part-one crimes reported in the area between 2012 and 2017.

If you combine districts four and six, which includes nearly all of the East Central neighborhood and the Taylor neighborhood to the direct east, 4,606 part-one crimes were reported in the last five years.

Croyle said labeling one area as the city’s “most dangerous” is in itself a dangerous practice — there are too many factors at play to make a definitive call. But Croyle did say over the past decade or so, the police department has made a concerted effort to deter crime in East Central. 

The department’s Crime Reduction Unit, which is made up of two sergeants and 10 officers, considers the East Central area a top priority. 

Croyle said the CRU operates seven days a week, employing intelligence-led policing strategies, proactive patrols and investigative efforts to reduce crime and improve quality of life for residents of the neighborhood.

Gang suppression, a focus on “habitual offenders” and pattern crimes are also priorities. 

The CRU started during Jon Greiner’s time as chief.

Greiner worked for the OPD for 38 years, from 1973 to 2012, becoming the department’s chief in 1995. He said during his tenure as head of the department, the East Central area “always took a disproportionate amount of our focus.”

“Ogden is roughly 25 square miles, and that one square mile usually accounted for 25 percent of our part-one crime,” he said.

Still, Greiner is hesitant to label the area as “most dangerous.” 

“First of all, the area has improved quite a bit over the last several years,” he said. “There’s been a lot of reinvestment there.”

Greiner said Ogden has always had a reputation a “tough town,” developed during the city’s heyday as a national rail hub. The reputation persists, he said, causing outsiders and even some insiders to believe the city is more dangerous than it really is.

“The reality is, it’s pretty safe,” he said.

While it’s not perfect, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said East Central is on the rise.

Caldwell said East Central is Ogden’s oldest neighborhood, which comes with inherent challenges, but in the past few years, new housing developments have been built on blighted patches, old homes have been restored, and new arts and business districts have emerged.

“Right now, I consider the East Central area a real renaissance story,” he said. “There are still pockets we need to work on, but the neighborhood has made incredible strides.”

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mitchshaw.standardexaminer/.