UPDATE: Wilder has posted a video of the webinar mentioned below. END OF UPDATE.
Here are three southern Minnesota counties with substantially different percentages of foreign-born residents:
Freeborn — 3.4 percent.
Watonwan — 8.0 percent.
Nobles — 12.2 percent.
The state figure is 6.7 percent. So, what’s the crime rate in each of those counties?
Hint: Although crime and criminals frequently enter the conversation about immigration in the U.S. (you don’t have to go to Arizona to hear this), the foreign-born percentage in those three counties won’t give you a clue.
In fact, serious crimes are committed at the rate of between 1,700 and 1,800 a year per 100,000 residents in each of the three (an extrapolation, of course, since the populations are well below 100,000). That’s a rate lower than it was in 2000 and it’s just over half the rate for the state as a whole. It’s well below the rate of other outstate counties that have relatively low percentages of foreign-born residents.
These few paragraphs are hardly an exhaustive debate about crime and immigration but they offer a way to start examining perceptions and evidence, to look for the stories that might say more.
That, to me, is the value of the trove of data compiled by Wilder Research in its Minnesota Compass database. The site brings together lots of quality-of-life indicators regarding age, education, public safety, the environment, transportation and more, all of which can offer ways to guide conversations for people trying to make their communities better places to live.
Wilder recently built up the portion dealing with immigration, which is where I pulled these numbers from. Wilder is showing that portion of Minnesota Compass off in a webinar at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 21, and asked me to moderate an online discussion about immigration with Tim Penny, CEO and president of the Southern Minnesota Initiative; Marcy Costello, a native of Peru and a board member of the Southwest Initiative Foundation; and Don Hickman, senior program manager for the Initiative Foundation in central Minnesota.
It should be a good conversation about how Minnesota communities can deal with the opportunities, the tension, the change that immigration brings and about how to get your hands on data that can inform — worth an hour of your time. Find out more by going here. You can register to join in here.
After that, Minnesota Public Radio News’ Michael Caputo will continue the conversation online at Insight Now, the place he’s building as a great place to join intelligent conversations about topics affecting Minnesotans’ lives.