Hermiston resident John Kirwan addressed what he believes are troubling crime statistics during the Hermiston City Council meeting Monday night.

At issue were statistics that Kirwan suggested were under-reported that show Hermiston's crime rate among the highest in Oregon.

"There are some definite improvements that could be made in this community," Kirwan told the council, suggesting the years that crime has been low correspond to years the police department was well-staffed.

Kirwan cited several years of following crime statistic in the region, specifically addressing information found on websites such as www.city-data.com and www.neighborhoodscout.com.

Both websites claim to use FBI uniform crime reports as their data source.

According to Kirwan, the sites are often used by people contemplating moving to an area, and can lead people in higher income brackets to look elsewhere.

"They affect property values," Kirwan said.

Neighborhoodscout.com, for example describes Hermiston this way: "The crime rate in Hermiston is considerably higher than the national average across all communities in America from the largest to the smallest."

The site also assesses the likelihood of becoming a victim of violent crime in Hermiston as 1 in 309, compared to 1 in 378 in Oregon as a whole.

Kirwan also suggested Hermiston may be facing drug problems, citing the recent discovery of nearly five pounds of methamphetamine and the arrest of 15 "mid-level" drug traffickers in May in Hermiston.

"Gangs are here to make money," Kirwan said. "They're just like a business in that respect."

Chief of Police Dan Coulombe, who presented uniform crime report data comparing Hermiston with Pendleton and the county as a whole during a previous council meeting, disputed the statistics used by Kirwan on Monday.

"If you do the math ... you're incorrect," Coulombe said. "Your numbers are wrong."

John Ballard, attending the meeting to question a land swap agreement proposed between the city and the Hermiston School District, pointed out that when he moved to the Hermiston area, his car insurance went up on his 1989 Honda, due to the insurance company's claim his car was more likely to be stolen in Hermiston.

Ballard lives in Umatilla, but owns property in Hermiston.

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