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SLO residents 'happy and healthy' amid rise in violent crime 

While a recent study named the San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande area one of top 10 “happiest, healthiest” communities in the U.S., those same areas have experienced a growing violent crime rate.

The area was ranked 10th in “community wellness” on a recently released Gallup Healthways Wellbeing Index.

“High well-being communities have citizens who are thriving across many aspects of their lives, who are optimistic about their future,” the report stated, “and collectively who are more productive, perform better, and have better health and lower health care costs.”

But while residents may be feeling “optimistic,” the same area was featured on another list with a more disturbing headline. News website 24/7 Wall Street ranked the San Luis Obispo metropolitan area first on its list of six U.S. cities where “crime is soaring,” claiming the area saw a 57.8 percent increase in the violent crime rate between 2010 and 2014.

So is a metro area that contains Oprah’s “happiest city in the U.S.” really seeing an explosion in violent crime? The truth appears to be somewhere in the middle.

The crime statistics come from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s annual data. That data included violent crime rates for the SLO Metropolitan Area, which is defined as including data from SLO city, Paso Robles, and Arroyo Grande. However, prior to 2012, that metro area definition didn’t include Arroyo Grande, which added an additional 17,000 residents to the area. The 24/7 Wall Street website’s rankings included data from 2010 and 2011, before Arroyo Grande was added to the area, possibly skewing the crime rate, which the UCR measures as the number of violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

However, comparable years of the UCR data still show that the rate of violent crime in the SLO metro area is increasing. Between 2012—the first year Arroyo Grande was included—and 2014, there was a 27.5 percent increase in the violent crime rate, according to the UCR. That includes a 16.9 percent increase in the violent crime rate from 2012 to 2013 and an 8.9 increase from 2013 to 2014.

While the data shows that the increase in violent crimes in the SLO metro area is close to 30 percent between 2012 and 2014, the total population of the area grew by only 1.8 percent for the same time period, according to the UCR program’s data. 

The FBI’s UCR program’s violent crime statistic include murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. UCR data for the SLO metro area in 2015 is not yet available.

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