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Sioux City's violent crime increased slightly in 2016, but trending down in 2017

SIOUX CITY | Sioux City saw a slight uptick in violent crime during 2016, according to a recently released annual report. But preliminary numbers from this year show it could be back on the decrease. 

Overall, the data shows Sioux City's crime numbers continue to remain low compared with the city's higher-crime years in the 1990s, as well as compared with the current national average and crime statistics in other large Iowa cities. 

Sioux City experienced 365 violent crimes in 2016, the city's second-highest total in the past decade, according to data released this fall in the FBI's annual Crime in the U.S. Report. That number increased approximately 5.5 percent from the 346 violent crimes in 2015.

Both years brought the city's highest totals since 2007, when the city experienced 373 violent crimes. 

The FBI classifies violent crime as murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery. It compiles and refines statistics reported by local police departments each year and publishes them the following fall as part of the report.

Slight increases in robberies (54 in 2015 to 59 in 2016) and aggravated assaults (250 to 265) drove Sioux City's 2016 rise in violent crime, according to the report. Sioux City also reported one homicide -- down from two in 2015 -- and 40 rapes, the same number as the previous year.

So far this year, SCPD crime analyst Marie Divis said through Nov. 30, Sioux City has totaled 215 violent crimes, signaling that the numbers are likely to trend downward next year. Those statistics could slightly change in the final FBI report, however, because of how the FBI refines the classification of the statistics based on its reporting criteria.

Regardless, Divis said, the best indicator of violent crime, the homicide rate, continues to be well below the national average in Sioux City.

"That's a good way to look at violent crimes," she said. "You can't hide those."

Sioux City, with an estimated population of 82,819 in 2016, had one homicide that year, making its rate much lower than the average 5.3 homicides per 100,000 people nationwide. Sioux City has had two homicides so far in 2017, putting it on pace to remain much lower than average. 

The city's lone homicide of 2016 came Feb. 17, when 50-year-old Vernon Mace died of multiple stab wounds after an incident in the 1900 block of West First Street. Police arrested 47-year-old Elias W. Wanatee in connection with the incident, and Wanatee was sentenced in April 2017 to 50 years in prison for second-degree murder.  

The two homicides so far this year include a June 3 incident in which James R.D. Purcell, 21, was stabbed to death near 420 17th St. The other was a July 23 incident in which 36-year-old Vincent Walker was confronted by three people, one of whom stabbed him four times while another hit him with a baseball bat. Daniel Levering, 29, was arrested three days later and charged with first-degree murder. He has since pleaded not guilty.

Divis said overall the city's 2016 increase in violent crime was a small one. 

"We’re looking at a difference of about 20 crimes, which is a very negligible change," she said. 

Police Chief Rex Mueller said violent crimes are typically "crimes of passion" in the heat of a moment, which makes them difficult to predict and prevent. The best deterrent, he said, is to catch and penalize major offenders, which is one of SCPD's main focus points.

"When the bad guys feel that they can hide, like they're anonymous, they flourish," he said. "When bad guys feel like they're identified and they don't have the room to work, you can kind of suppress that criminal activity." 

Nationwide, violent crime increased 4.1 percent in 2016, compared to 2015 data. It was the second year in a row in which violent crime has risen. Property crime -- those classified as burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson -- dropped 1.3 percent, marking the 14th consecutive year the collective estimates for these offenses declined. 

See the crime statistics for Sioux City from 1995-2016, as found in the FBI's annual Crime in the U.S. reports.

YearPopulationViolent CrimeMurder and Nonnegligent ManslaughterRapeRobberyAggravated AssaultProperty CrimeBurglaryLarceny-TheftMotor Vehicle TheftArson
201482,37228914541 2023,1665332,42720618
201382,676324346402353,658604 2,8142407
200882,404 327538552292,6995222,02415325

In Sioux City, property crimes decreased to 3,247 in 2016, down from 3,496 in 2015. That number may increase in 2017, Divis said, as the department had totaled 3,138 incidents as of Nov. 30. 

Comparisons to national numbers or even other cities are imperfect, Mueller said, due to differences in reporting and the many unique factors that play into crime in each city. The FBI each year also cautions against simplistic rankings of cities and counties based solely on the report's statistics. 

"Unless that you can find a city that’s Sioux City’s size in a similar region along an interstate, near a river, with a similar economic outlook, you’re really comparing apples and oranges very often," Mueller said.

But Divis and Mueller said with this in mind, the department does look at how Sioux City compares to the nationwide averages and other large Iowa cities each year. 

Des Moines -- Iowa's most populous city with 211,501 residents -- saw 1,497 violent crimes in 2016, including 13 homicides. Cedar Rapids, the second-most populous at 131,181, saw 387 violent crimes and four homicides, and Davenport, the third-most at 103,118, had 750 violent crimes and seven homicides. 

Iowa City, which is Iowa's fifth-most populous at 75,527, saw 197 violent crimes and zero homicides. 

"Looking at the data, we do pretty well," Divis said. "Sioux City is a very safe community when you look at our violent crimes."

The most important comparisons, she said, are with previous years in Sioux City. A big-picture look shows crime has been consistently down since the peak levels of the 1990s. 

The 1995 Crime in the U.S. report tallied more than 1,400 violent crimes in Sioux City, of which over 1,200 were aggravated assaults -- nearly five times as many as 2016. The number of violent crimes has shown an overall decrease since then and has not risen above 400 since 2005.

Mueller said the department keeps a close eye on nationwide trends and has recently seen a rise in gun violence, both nationally and locally. He said incidents such as the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas have influenced police department tactics.  

Sioux City has additionally had three police officers shot in the past four years after having none for the past 30 years. 

"Certainly the violence against us has escalated," he said. 

Samantha sells for $15K at Little Yellow Dog auction

SIOUX CITY | Samantha, the small snowy-white Maltese with a playful personality, sold for $15,000 at Saturday's Little Yellow Dog Auction.

The four-month-old dog was purchased by Darlene Erickson at the 82nd annual event, held noon Saturday in the atrium of the Ho-Chunk Centre.

"I lost my dog this year, and it was a 16-year-old Maltese," Erickson said. "I wanted to get another dog, and this was just an opportune time for me to do this."

Erickson, who worked at Wells Fargo Bank for 45 years and has been involved with the Little Yellow Dog event as a secretary for 25 years, said she plans to re-name the dog Daisy.

Proceeds from the auction, sponsored by the Little Yellow Dog order, will benefit the Sioux City Journal’s Mr. Goodfellow Charity, a tradition that provides gifts and books to 8,000 underprivileged area children at Christmastime.


Sue Stusse, treasurer of the Mr. Goodfellow Charity, said overall proceeds from the event totaled around $132,500 as of Saturday afternoon. She said she expected the charity to easily reach its goal of $135,000 in the coming days. 

“The generosity of this community – I tell you what, it’s overwhelming," she said. "People were writing $5,000 checks here and there." 

Photos: Little Yellow Dog Auction

The Journal's Goodfellows fund began in 1914 to provide Christmas toys to needy children and expanded in 1936 to include the auction of a puppy.

Toy giveaways will take place 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 501 Pavonia St., the warehouse directly south of the Journal building. Families must apply for the Goodfellow toys with the application that is running every day in The Journal and in the Siouxland Shoppers Guide. An application can also be picked up at The Journal, 515 Pavonia St.

An estimated 200 people attended Saturday's auction. The event was also broadcast via live-feed on the Journal's website and on KSCJ radio. In addition to the auction, it featured Christmas tunes from Sioux City's All-America Concert Band.

KSCJ Radio's Charlie Stone and Dave Nixon, a former anchor for KTIV and KCAU television, emceed the event. 

Samantha was donated this year by Powell Broadcasting, the company that owns KSCJ an a group of other local radio stations, as part of its celebration of KSCJ's 90-year anniversary

The puppy's name, Samantha, was a tribute to the late Sam Seldon, a longtime engineer and historian at KSCJ who was heavily involved in the Yellow Dog auction each year and with KSCJ's broadcasts of the auction.

During last year's auction, Aspen, a 14-week-old Maltese, was sold for $16,000 to an anonymous Sioux City buyer.

A look back at the Little Yellow Dogs from 1936 including breed information, who purchased and the price paid at the annual auction.

1936SkippyMongrelHerman Miller$25.00
1937Midget "Mike"MongrelWax Nelson & John Kampmeyer$200.00
1938BruceOscar Hoberg for S.C. Scottish Rite Consistory$250.00
1939ZeroOscar Hoberg for S.C. Scottish Rite Consistory$300.00
1940HappyAbu Bekr Shrine Temple$275.00
1941KitK.A. Murray$250.00
1942VictoryHugh Twohig$310.00
1943PalermoFrank Pilley$337.00
1944PeterG.F. Peceny$375.00
1945CinderellaCharles McKenna$390.00
1946DancerTetonia Club$450.00
1947MistletoeH.R. Scroggs$500.00
1948BlondieElks Club$510.00
1949MemeWally Wilson & Harold Jacobsen$525.00
1950Sir TippetSchaff's Hardware, Remsen, Iowa$565.00
1951Soo Wing WuE.S. Gaynor$575.00
1952V-EightJess Getz$577.50
1953Blue BoyFred K. Harbeck$615.00
1954Siouxland CoquetteSealyham TerrierMiles Patton$650.00
1955DonnabelleC.H. Brechlin$700.00
1956LorrieDachsundRussell Deever$710.00
1957Little JoeR.P. Boulay$725.00
1958PeggyBob Johnson$765.00
1959NickSodrac Park$800.00
1960HappyCarter Dennis$900.00
1961Little BillJerry Kozney$950.00
1962MissyMrs. L.J. Kaplan$1,000.00
1963Little IkeJ.J. Arkin$1,075.00
1964GeorgieDave Levitt$1,130.00
1965MaxieMiniature PoodleBoard of Directors LYD for Mrs. Winifred Perasso$800.00
1966JoeyPoodleVernon Boyers$810.00
1967Wacuwa St. NickBrown and white English SpringerSioux City Grain Exchange$830.00
1968PaddyVizsla PointerUnited Order Buyers Dixon Co. Feedlots$850.00
1969Little MaxieWire haired DachsundMr. & Mrs. Irving Levich$640.00
1970Little YellerFawn Colored ChihuahuaJulian Torgeson$2,310.00
1971ScottieBlack Scottish TerrierJames Gribble$1,650.00
1972KandyCairn TerrierNorthwestern National Bank, Stan Evans$1,410.00
1973PollyShetland SheepdogDavid, Norman & Peter Waitt$1,530.00
1974GoldieYellow LabradorRay E. Friedman$2,520.00
1975GeorgyBoston TerrierVernon Boyers$3,000.00
1976BuckwheatBoston TerrierJim Yanney$3,550.00
1977SandyCocker SpanielRay Grandle (Bill Grabau)$3,500.00
1978Sir NickEnglish Springer SpanielJim Yanney$5,000.00
1979JinglesMiniature SchnauzerAlan Booge & Jim Cuthbert$7,500.00
1980Sir TannenbaumWire haired DachsundAlan Booge, Jim Cuthbert & David Sitzmann$8,000.00
1981KringlesSheltieRay & Todi Switzer$5,200.00
1982JinglesBlack & White CockerAlan Booge$4,400.00
1983Sir NicholasSamoyedLarry Doeschot$5,000.00
1984Sir Lord StoneEnglish BulldogKen Opstein$5,100.00
1985Golden GirlGolden RetrieverBob Hoefer$7,500.00
1986Golden BoyGolden RetrieverWalt E. Beggs$6,700.00
1987Sir VernBuff colored CockerChuck Avery$6,000.00
1988Sir FrankGolden RetrieverFred Wells$5,300.00
1989Elmer's GirlBlack and white CockerPaul Meloy$8,100.00
1990Mink's MagicTri-colored CockerTed & Norm, Jr. Waitt$8,500.00
1991Miss KringelsYellow Chinese Shar-peiJerry and Kathy Weiner$6,700.00
1992NoelBichon Friseharold A. Bomgaars$7,100.00
1993Lady GracieBull TerrierNorm and Andria Waitt$8,600.00
1994Princess ViMiniature SchnauzerFred Wells$6,500.00
1995Miss AmberGolden RetrieverTom Kurdy$8,700.00
1996Doc HolidayGolden RetrieverKevin Vaughn of Fimco$12,750.00
1997Yukon CorneliusGolden RetrieverTed Waitt$15,500.00
1998Mr. GoldenGolden RetrieverRoger Miller$15,600.00
1999FargoGolden RetrieverHirsch/Wooldridge family$9,000.00
2000ChadYellow LabradorBrad Gunderson$10,200.00
2001Miss NoelMalteseMike Wells$18,300.00
2002T-BoneMalteseJim and Jameley Levich$18,500.00
2003SeamanGreat NewfoundlandTodd and Cathy Ellison$11,500.00
2004Colonel HaroldBoston TerrierBob Scott and Duane Davis$20,000.00
2005Little NicholasPoodleTim Brown and D.A. Davis$21,100.00
2006BelleWestieDr. Ralph and Julie Reeder$30,000.00
2007BrubeckGolden RetrieverD.A. Davis, Roger Miller, Leonard Gill, Paul Braunger and Bill Barkley$20,000.00
2008BojiCairn TerrierDave Marx and John Goldsmith$20,000.00
2009Holly BerryYorkshire terrierDan Wells$20,000.00
2010HopeMiniature SchnauzerCharese Yanney$10,000.00
2011StoneyYellow labrador retrieverSioux City Explorers$45,000.00
2012TrufflesAmerican water spanielRhonda Capron$14,500.00
2013SnickersLiver and white springer spanielPatty and Eric Lohry$15,000.00
2014FinneganScottish terrierBrad Smith$15,000.00
2015DasherBeagleDon and Linda Boyer$10,200.00
2017SamanthaMalteseDarlene Erickson$15,000

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

Darlene Erickson holds Samantha after placing the winning bid during the Little Yellow Dog Auction Saturday at the Ho-Chunk Centre. She bought her for $15,000.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Jensen Dealerships employees from left, Frank Phillips, Andrea Aubele, Jana Niebaum, Angie Nicodemus, Tracie Blatchford, Bob Jensen, Kari Ludwig, Gary Blankers, Matt Dodds, Don Schrunk, Robert Klein, Troy Fuller, Wanda Dixon and Annette Vlotho pose for a photo in Sioux City on Nov. 21. Jensen Dealerships has contributed to The Journal's Mr. Goodfellow fund.

Tim Hynds Sioux City Journal 

Unicorns are "in" this year, according to Book People owner Chriss Camenzend. The mythical creature will be found in both books and as plush animals this Christmas.

GALLAGHER: Primghar elevator rises from the ashes

PRIMGHAR, Iowa | Jim Edwards had just sat down for dinner on the evening of Sept. 8. He was in the Iowa Great Lakes area while his wife, Loretta Edwards, stayed back home at Primghar for a few hours because, as director of the Primghar ambulance, she was on-call that evening.

"My wife called and I could tell by her voice, she wasn't joking," Jim recalled.

The family business, Nicholson & Edwards Grain Company, was on fire.

A friend directed Jim to hop in his vehicle as they sped south. They'd only reached Milford by the time Chief Gary Lansink called Jim, who is a member of the Primghar Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department. "Gary said, 'This is your worst nightmare: The elevator is burning,'" Jim remembered.

Minutes later, photos taken by friends began showing up on his phone.

His brother, Kurt Edwards, meantime, had joined friends and fellow employees in racing in to their office to rescue the records of their customers before the blaze took the structure.  They were able to salvage documents and computer backups that would detail how much grain farmers had stored on-site, and if they'd contracted to have it sold.

Kurt then stood by, joining firefighters in protecting the neighborhood as flames enveloped the structure. Ultimately, the operation, which has been in the family since 1956, lost 200,000 bushels of storage space; the wood house, where they blended grain; a main office and an upper-level office.

"We had 22,000 bushels of soybeans in the wood house and we lost another two steel bins," Jim said, adding that the firm was able to salvage 64,000 bushels of corn from those bins.

"We don't have a total price loss yet," he continued. "But, between the soybeans and the wood house, it was right around $1 million."

The company worked quickly the following week to burn much of the rest of the debris and have it hauled away. They graded over the area and put in new rock so as to avoid customers suffering flat tires when their semis and wagons, loaded with corn and soybeans at harvest, began rolling in.

"We were two to three weeks ahead of harvest, thank goodness," Jim recalled. "That gave us time to get all the debris and nails picked up. We then had to get a temporary office moved in by the scale, and get the scale hooked up."

That's where I found the Edwards brothers a few weeks ago, recording scale readings in their temporary office before hustling outside to unload grain as another farmer pulled in. It wasn't ideal. That's OK, they knew it wouldn't be.

"Most of our customers were very patient," Jim said. "It was a long harvest. All the corn that was brought in had to be dried, which slowed things down. On some years, you can dump corn right into the storage tank and not dry it."

This year, however, most corn had 17 to 19 percent moisture content, requiring drying. That said, much of the corn around the center of O'Brien County yielded 200 to 240 bushels per acre, save for a strip between Primghar and nearby Paullina that missed rains for nearly a three-month stretch.

"And, generally, we saw beans that were 60-plus bushels," he said.

The elevator, which is owned by the families of Jim, Kurt and brother Tom Edwards, received offers from neighboring grain companies for equipment, personnel, etc.

"That was very nice," Jim said. "We used one elevator, taking them some corn to make room early on. After that, we were good. We were fortunate that harvest went as slow as it did, so we could haul."

The company, which employs eight people, ended up piling about 80,000 bushels of grain outside, a pile that matches those from the past four to five years.

"You don't like to do that, but you have to keep dumping," Jim said, noting gratitude for being able to keep harvest running as normal as possible in a season that wasn't.

"Everybody here stepped up to the plate and worked as many hours as needed," he continued. "We had lots of long days this fall."

The season came to its unofficial close last weekend as Jim and Loretta Edwards got out of town -- without interruption this time -- to attend the wedding of their daughter, Traci, who married Alex Pruitt in Minneapolis. Jim laughed, noting that Traci had initially suggested a wedding on the first weekend of November. Her dad put the brakes on that idea, telling her in so many words that he and her uncle Kurt would have a difficult time getting to a Twin Cities wedding at the peak of harvest. And that was before the fire broke out.

Now that harvest has ended and the family has returned from the nuptials, the Edwards brothers work to finalize plans for a new office and storage space. And while they may reconfigure their setup, they remain committed to the elevator's footprint on the west edge of Primghar, where a grain-handling enterprise has flourished for more than a century, the last 61 years of which have involved this family.