Violent Crime in Delaware

Delaware is one of the smaller states in the country, but it still has its share of violent crimes. The median number of violent crimes in the state of Delaware per 1,000 people is 5.59, while the national median is 3.9. The property crime rate in Delaware per 1,000 people is 34.11 while the national median is 29.1. It could be that the fact that the state is smaller enhances the crime statistics, or it just could be that there are some parts of Delaware that offer more challenges to law abiding citizens than others. A closer look at the kinds of violent crimes in Delaware will help us to better understand these numbers and possibly develop a reason for why the Delaware medians are higher than the rest of the United States.

As of 2012, the population of the entire state of Delaware was 907,135. The most prevalent violent crime was assault, which occurs an average of 3.54 times for every 1,000 people. The more surprising statistic is the murder rate in Delaware which is at 0.05 per every 1,000 people. In a state where a small population is spread out to a variety of population centers, this murder rate is high. Rapes occur at a pace of 0.32 for every 1,000 residents, which also checks in at a high ratio for a state so small.

What does not help Delaware’s image for crime is how its larger cities rate in national polls. Parenting Magazine has the Delaware city of Wilmington as being the most dangerous city in the United States. However, the magazine does point out that Wilmington’s close proximity to violent population centers in cities such as Philadelphia does enhance the crime element that regularly crosses the border between Delaware and Pennsylvania. It is difficult to separate the crimes committed by Delaware residents and the crimes committed by people outside the state because crime statistics deal primarily in the crimes being committed and their location.

The largest city, by population, in Delaware is Brandywine. A look at the crime statistics in Brandywine tends to tell a similar story to the one in Wilmington. As an example, the Brandywine crime statistics include:

  • Total crime risk rate for Brandywine is 148, when the national average is 100.
  • The robbery risk rate is 254 for Brandywine, when the national average is 100.
  • The automotive theft risk rate for Brandywine is 173, when the national average is 100.
  • The assault risk rate for Brandywine is 156, while the national average is 100.

It is interesting to note that the crime rate in the entire state of Delaware has seemed to fall in line with the statewide unemployment rate. Since 2000, the unemployment and crime rates in Delaware have started to rise. Municipalities in the state are finding it difficult to keep up with the rise in crime when tax revenue is down. The sharp rise in unemployment in 2008 when the last major global recession hit coincides with the sharp rise in crime. While it is unclear if the two are related, it is interesting to see the similar patterns that both indicators are taking.

For such a small state, Delaware has a violent history that is filled with crimes that are hard to understand. In 1992, David J. Lawrie was under the influence of illegal narcotics and blind rage when he decided to kill his wife and their two children. Lawrie and his wife were estranged, and Lawrie’s rampage also claimed the life of an innocent child who happened to be a friend of the family staying with the wife and two children on the night that Lawrie committed his crimes. Lawrie was struck with guilt and surrendered to police without any kind of struggle.

Possibly the most famous violent crime in the history of the state of Delaware is the story of former Delaware deputy attorney general Thomas Capano. Capano was a very wealthy and well-connected lawyer who came from a prominent Delaware business family. He wound up having an affair with Anne Marie Fahey, who was a secretary to the then-governor of Delaware. When Fahey wound up falling in love with someone else, Capano murdered her and then recruited his brother to help him hide the body. The Capano brothers took a boat 62 miles out to sea before dumping the body of Anne Marie Fahey in the ocean.

It is always difficult to judge a book by its cover and that goes for a state as well. Delaware seems like a quiet little state in New England that has its leaves change colors in the fall and offers plenty of beaches for family vacations. But there is the other side of Delaware that tells of violent crimes and how passion can turn ugly, even in the highest law office in the state.