|How Worried Should Residents Be About Home Security in Columbia, MO?|
|Columbia, Missouri is centrally located in Boone County, just under 30 miles north of the state’s capital and almost equidistant from St. Louis and Kansas City. This college town is unusually diverse for the area, largely due to a constant influx of both students and professionals. More than eight percent of the city’s population is foreign-born, with people of all backgrounds coming together to form a colorful and unique mid-western town.|
The city is home to three major colleges and universities, including Stephens College, the University of Missouri, and Columbia College. The proliferation of students leads it to be one of the more progressive towns in the mid-west, both in terms of politics and the arts. Education and culture are in high demand, with over half the population holding at least a Bachelor’s degree, and almost a quarter pursuing post-graduate education.
Unsurprisingly, the city’s economy is heavily dependent on the colleges. A full half of the top employers in the area are actively affiliated with the University of Missouri or its other schools. The geography of the city is also heavily influenced by the presence of these institutions. Downtown Columbia consists of a one square mile area surrounded on three sides by institutes of learning. It contains a financial and business district in addition to beautiful historical architecture. Its densest commercial areas, however, are primarily found along its major thoroughfares: Interstate 70, Route 63, and Stadium Boulevard.
Most of the city’s residents live in an area that forms a ring around downtown Columbia. There are 63 government-recognized neighborhood associations within city limits. Of these neighborhoods, the safest are closer to the downtown area, with higher rates of crime being reported closer to the outskirts of the city.
When it comes to crime, Columbia’s picturesque architecture and proliferation of institutes of higher learning hide a less palatable truth. Overall crime rates are fairly high for a city its size. Residents’ chances of becoming a victim of violent crime hover at right around the national level: 1 in 271, versus 1 in 226 state-wide. However, levels of property crimes are significantly higher.
On average, 1 in 27 residents falls victim to a property crime, including burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft, each year. The vast majority of these crimes are comprised of acts of simple theft. 3,339 victims of theft reported the crime last year alone. These statistics do not place Columbia at the top of the nation’s, or even the state’s, most dangerous cities lists. They do, however, stand out as being remarkably high when compared to other cities its size. With a population of just under 117,000 and a total area of 63.5 square miles, it is not an overwhelmingly large urban center. Most cities this size across the country do not experience the elevated crime rates seen in more densely populated areas, but, unfortunately, Columbia is the exception.
The most dangerous areas to live in are, as noted, far from downtown. Neighborhoods like Huntsdale, Pierpont, and Shaw all experience much higher crime rates than the areas around the colleges. This is likely due to a more substantial police presence in and around the downtown area. The city’s only police department is located at 600 E Walnut St, where crime rates are notably lower. Surprisingly there does not seem to be any correlation between crime and a neighborhood’s proximity to the Boone County Jail, which is the only correctional facility in the area.
Residents of North Glenwood also appreciate an elevated level of security, as the city’s one official Neighborhood Watch program, the North Glenwood Neighborhood Watch Group, is located at 108 N Glenwood Ave. The presence of official watch groups and cohesive community ties among neighbors can provide a strong deterrent to crime. With well over 50% of the population having moved into their current residence within the last ten years, though, it can be hard to form the kind of sincere community ties necessary to ensure a home’s protection.
Those who live in areas that are not covered by the city’s one official watch program, and do not enjoy the benefits of proximity to the local police, may want to consider taking additional measures to secure their homes and properties. Alarm and security systems, ranging from simple wireless door alarms to much more extensive arrays of security cameras and motion-activated lights, can all play a role in keeping residents and their families safe.
Local security companies include Tiger Security Service on W Nifong Boulevard, Advanced Security in the Rock Bridge Shopping Center, and Alarm Communications Center on N Providence Rd. A wide variety of national carriers also offer alarm services in the Columbia area. Those who are living in the more dangerous neighborhoods noted above, spend large amounts of time away from home for business or pleasure, or are simply looking for the added comfort of a little extra security, may want to look into alarm systems monitored by external companies.
Advances in alarm technology also allow for a more hands-on approach. Specialized security cameras now exist that can be directly monitored from homeowner’s cell phones, allowing them to keep an eye on the home even when they are away. Of course all of these added security measures do not replace the need for good old-fashioned common sense. Those planning to leave their homes vacant, whether for several days or several weeks, should ensure that they have stopped mail and newspaper deliveries to their homes and inform nearby neighbors that they will be gone, so that any questionable activity will not go unnoticed.