Editor's Note: This is the third in a multi-week series looking into all sides of the effect of Tarleton State University and its students on the Stephenville community. As the university continues to grow and thrive, the community does as well. But as with any growing community, while there are numerous benefits, there are also drawbacks to a larger population.
One of the major benefits of Tarleton State's main campus being in Stephenville is the growth that comes with the success of the university. As the college continues to grow and flourish, so does the city. But not everything about growth is good; for example the traffic increases, which we have previously focused on, and with more people comes a higher crime rate.
Statistically, towns and cities that experience a large growth also suffer a spike in the crime rate. National statistics by the National Crime Statistics division of the FBI indicate a lesser crime rate across the country in recent years (1990-2000 vs. 2001-2011). However, in areas where the economy is poor or cities have seen growth, especially large growth, the rates have increased. According to officials, this is common in both demographics and Stephenville falls into the growth category.
"No matter if you are talking about a small city in New York State or a small west Texas town, if the population rises, so will the crime rate," said an analyst for the National Crime Statistics division of the FBI in an article published earlier this year. "While the national crime rate has decreased dramatically since the early 90s, in cities where there is growth, the numbers go up as well as the number of people who commit said crimes."
City police officials back up that statement, saying with the growth in population, there have been more reported crimes but they believe that this is only because the city is growing, not because of the students coming into the city to attend Tarleton. They say no matter the reason for growth, if there are more people in an area's population there will be more people to commit and report crimes.
The major offenses that spike during months when Tarleton's student population is at its highest is the number of alcohol related offenses. That, however, is a common problem in college towns and is to be expected, said Stephenville PD officials.
As the university continues to grow, so does the population in Stephenville and Erath County, and thus the sheriff's department and Stephenville PD see more crime, but not always from the students. While the university affects the growth and the growth is responsible for the rise in crime, officials say it is not the students specifically, just the larger population that is to blame.
Next week, the Empire-Tribune will look into the effects of Tarleton students on the housing in Stephenville.