Sun Editorial: Sometimes the numbers do lie

Don’t rely on a report to know that your community is safe.

Violent crime is up across the nation by 4 percent. We’re doomed. Wait.

Violent crime is down 4 percent in New Jersey. We’re saved.

Actually, while crime statistics can be interesting to look at, they don’t necessarily paint an accurate picture. So, when perusing the recently released FBI 2016 crime report figures, keep in mind, as Mark Twain once said, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Here’s why crime stats, and other stats, can be misleading. If your community experienced a 50 percent increase in violent crime, that could be a serious problem. Or it could be that a couple more people got drunk and punched someone. Small sample sizes and percentages don’t really go together.

Small-town residents should, to borrow a phrase from the sports world, rely more on the eye test than analytics. Do you feel safe in your home and community? Are your local officials doing what they need to do to keep your kids safe? If the answers to these questions trouble you, then, yes, it’s time to worry — and time to get involved.

These days, it’s easier than ever to get involved, to ask questions and to make a difference. Government and civic leaders and police officials are doing more than just paying lip service to building partnerships. They utilize social media, hold events such as “Coffee with a Cop” and have sometimes difficult discussions, all in the name of building community relationships.

Keeping neighborhoods safe is a team effort. The cops can’t be everywhere, and you shouldn’t go around making citizen arrests. Work together. Talk to each other. Openly discuss differences of opinion.

Do that, and you won’t need an FBI report to tell you if your town is safe.