Crime Could Affect Insurance Rates

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EUGENE, Ore. — We’ve heard the calls and received plenty of e-mails from people who are concerned about the impact of budget cuts at the Lane County Jail. Now we’re looking at how you could end up paying.

When crime rates go up, so do home insurance rates. We talked to a local insurance agent who told us crime rates are a factor when figuring out how much you pay to insure your home. But it might be too soon to tell if Lane County’s cuts are affecting your bottom line.

Home insurance rates are derived from many different factors. One of them is claims rates. If property crime rises in a certain area, so can premiums.

“So if we have a lot more losses in an area, eventually we see increased rates,” said Jason Stefely, State Farm Agent.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office can’t say whether property crime is up in outlying areas, but deputies can say this.

“We aren’t able to respond to property crime calls. We aren’t able to hold people for your lower level crimes, your property crimes,” said Sgt. Carrie Carver, Lane County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

Eugene police confirm they’ve seen more property crime in the past couple of years. From 2010 to 2011 it increased by 12.5 percent. This year so far it’s up again by 5 percent.

EPD says there’s a direct connection between the closed jail beds and that bump. From May 2008 through August 2009, when the Lane County Jail capacity dropped from 273 to 168 beds, Eugene’s property crime rate rose by 24 percent.

“Now we’re down to 135 beds which is just a fraction of what we really should have,” Carver said.

As property crimes have gone up, so have home insurance rates, but agents say the two aren’t necessarily linked yet.

“We wouldn’t take rate action because of a property crime spike of a few months. But if we saw a trend and it looks stable we would see that impacted in rates eventually,” Stefely said.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office wants to turn that trend around. That starts with finding more funding for the jail. Deputies hope they can find a solution before the rates rise any more.

“We’re all gonna have to pitch in, and there are some great ideas out there. We’re looking at other counties and their models. My hope is that we don’t get far enough down the line that insurance rates hike like that,” Carver said.

Insurance agents encourage their clients to be proactive–leave lights on, pick-up packages, try to look home when you’re not.

EPD has been holding community forums about neighborhood crime prevention. The Lane County Sheriff’s Office has regular community meetings to discuss the funding crisis at its level.

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