National survey shows residents mostly positive about Skokie
Skokie services received high ratings in a national resident survey. Here, Sarla Tangri, of Skokie has her blood pressure taken by nurse Sue Reisberg at the Skokie Health Department, which fared well on the survey. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:38AM
The results of a national survey delivered to a sampling of Skokie residents in late 2012 might best be summed up by Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”: “There’s no place like home.”
Most Skokie residents are pleased with where they live and especially with the services they receive, according to results from the National Citizen Survey, which is issued to 1,200 residents every few years.
First conducted in Skokie in 2003 by The National Research Center Inc., an independent survey firm based in Colorado, the survey marked the fourth time the village has tried to read the pulse of residents in this way.
It provides “standardized” survey questions and allows for comparisons with hundreds of other communities in the United States.
Like the last three times, the surveys were sent to randomly selected single-family and multi-family residences in the village. This year, 352 (or 30 percent) of them were returned, which is not as many as some years but falls within the typical 25-40 percent range, according to the National Research Center.
Skokie has always received high marks on the survey; in most categories they surpass “benchmarks” or standard results for similar municipalities in the country. Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed rated Skokie as an excellent or good place to live, 81 percent gave high marks to the quality of life in Skokie and 78 percent would recommend their neighborhood as a place to live.
“As with prior surveys,” said Ann Tennes, the village’s director of marketing and transportation, “those surveyed enjoy a good quality of life in the village of Skokie and believe that Skokie is a good place to live.”
Transportation scores also ranked highly, possibly helped by last year’s long-awaited opening of the downtown CTA station.
In 26 of 30 community characteristics, Skokie ranked above national benchmarks, and in the four other categories, it met national benchmarks.
“These results are not always the case,” said Damema Mann, The National Citizen Survey Director. These (results) are not typical of cases we see across the country.”
Perhaps the most sensitive area in the survey concerns public safety in Skokie. While Skokie ranked higher than national benchmarks in several areas, there was an increase in the number of people who don’t feel safe in their neighborhood — especially at night.
Village officials believe the biggest problem is “perception” — a difference between reality and what crime statistics show. Mayor George Van Dusen at a Caucus Party coffee last week told supporters that crime is going down — even more serious crime — which he said will be confirmed in soon-to-be-released crime statistics for 2012.
But some in the community remain skeptical and believe more serious crime has been occurring in the village than it once did. That perception was buttressed over the weekend by an incident where a woman was stabbed with a sharp object and her vehicle was taken while she was unloading groceries.
Skokie Voice, the active citizens’ committee, conducted its own research and concluded that serious crime in the last five years is up in certain areas. Van Dusen last week didn’t deny the Skokie Voice results — he said there are “pockets” in the village where more crimes have occurred, which need to be addressed.
But he and other village officials maintain that the facts do not support a frequently-heard position that Skokie is significantly less safe than it once was.
In every public safety category in the survey, numbers were down from three years ago even if they were above national benchmarks.
Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they feel safe in their neighborhoods during the day, the first time in any of the four survey years where that percentage was not above 90.
Sixty-five percent said they feel safe in their neighborhood after dark, the first time in four survey years when that percentage was not at least 70. A similar 66 percent said they feel safe in downtown at night, a drop of 2 percent from three years ago.
The worst public safety ranking concerned safety from property crimes where less than half of respondents — 49 percent — said they feel safe compared to 57 percent three years ago.
Tennes told the Village Board there is “a dichotomy” between perceptions about crime and data showing overall crime has dropped — now for the fifth year in a row. She said the village is taking measures to address those perceptions including a new on-line public safety crime bulletin and a crime tip hotline among other actions.
Village officials believe though the survey results overall endorse Skokie.
Sixty-five percent responded “good” or “excellent” to the overall direction Skokie is taking.
Some of the most impressive marks in the four survey years belong to village services.
Once again, residents were highly supportive of fire, health, police and public works departments and the human services division. They also gave high marks to parks and the library and value services to seniors, youth and low-income people — all areas where they responded well above the national benchmarks.