Editor's note: Although quite long, this is a "Cliffs Notes" version of the National Research Center's survey. We did not include everything mentioned as the results are very lengthy. However, we included parts we felt were important to the community. You can view the complete survey by clicking on the PDF image to the right of this article.
Since 2003, the village has hired the National Research Center (NRC) to conduct a citizen's survey to evaluate the quality of living in Skokie. The questions range from overall safety after dark to satisfaction of snow removal. To date, there have been four surveys, one in 2003, 2006, 2009 and, most recently, 2012.
The NRC - which performs these types of surveys throughout the country including neighboring areas such as Park Ridge - administered the Skokie survey in October 2012. A total of 1,200 questionnaires were mailed to "randomly selected Skokie single and multi-family homes," the NRC said. (Also, see distribution map by clicking the image on the right.)
Of the 1,200 mailed, only 352, or 29.4 percent - responded. According to the NRC, an average response rate is "25 to 40 percent." The Village of Skokie has a population of 65,066, according to the United States Census Bureau.
It should be noted, however, that not every survey returned was completely filled out, meaning some areas were left blank.
The NRC uses benchmarks using 30 different characteristics and compared Skokie's numbers against 500 different jurisdictions throughout the country. According to the NRC, Skokie scored above average in 26 of the 30 benchmarks.
What were some of the highlights?
- Quality of Life: The overall quality of life in the village received excellent or good ratings from 82 percent of respondents. A total of 88 percent rated Skokie "as an excellent or good place to live," according to the survey.
- Housing: Skokie ranked much above the national benchmarks for both availability of affordable housing, with 59 percent stating it was excellent or good, according to the NRC survey. Seventy-two percent said the variety of housing options in Skokie was also excellent or good.
- If you've read our trustee candidate profiles one thing keeps coming up: Economic sustainability. According to the NRC survey, 86 percent gave Skokie an excellent or good rating for shopping opportunities, 74 percent said the overall quality of Skokie businesses were also excellent or good and 73 percent said the village is an excellent place to work. Only 46 percent said the employment opportunities in Skokie were excellent or good. While the last piece of data may seem low, all the aforementioned responses were above the national benchmarks, according to the NRC survey.
- Public Safety: Perhaps the biggest talking point among Skokie citizens and local leaders is public safety. Crime in Skokie is down 5 percent, according to the Skokie Police Department's annual report. But how did those surveyed respond?
After Hours Safety -
In 2003, 78 percent of residents said they felt safe in their neighborhood after dark. That number has steadily declined in the last nine years. In 2006, 75 percent said they feel safe, in 2009, 71 percent, and in 2012, 65 percent said they feel very or somewhat safe after dark.
According to the NRC survey, Skokie fell "below" the national benchmark for public safety during the day and "much below" the national benchmark after dark. The survey also indicated that violent crime is "much below" the national benchmark average as well as property crimes, which was also rated as "much below."
In 2003, the NRC asked, "During the past 12 months, were you or anyone in your household the victim of any crime in Skokie?" Eleven percent responded yes. Fast forward to 2012 and that number has increased to 16 percent. The report stated that residents were victims of crime "more" than the national benchmark.
However, police services were rated above the national average at 87 percent and fire services were also above the national average at 97 percent, according to the NRC survey.
Residents rated their sense of safety from violent crimes, property crimes, fire and environmental dangers. Eighty-seven percent said they feel very to somewhat safe in their neighborhood during the day and 74 percent said they feel very or somewhat safe from environmental hazards. The said numbers are similar to national benchmarks, according to the NRC.
Meanwhile, 65 percent indicated feeling very or somewhat safe after dark in Skokie and 65 percent said they feel very or somewhat safe from violent crime and 49 percent said they feel very or somewhat safe from property crime, according to the survey. The last two percentages were below the national benchmark average, according to the NRC. Despite those low numbers, 88 percent still rated Skokie as an excellent place to live.
- Major Problems in Skokie: Of those that responded, 15 percent ranked crime as a major problem in Skokie. Property taxes were ranked as the biggest concern in Skokie, receiving a "majority problem rating" of 42 percent. While the village itself hasn't raised property taxes for more than 20 years, school and park districts, for example, have.
- Police Behavior - Of those surveyed, 87 percent gave police services an excellent or good rating, 82 percent said the overall competence of officers is excellent or good and 74 percent said police attitude and behavior toward citizens is excellent or good, according to the NRC.
As for fire services, about 97 percent said ambulance and emergency medical services were excellent or good. Fire prevention and education received an 84 percent approval rating and traffic enforcement and emergency preparedness received 77 percent and 73 percent, respectively, as being excellent or good.
- Public Trust - Sixty-five percent of those surveyed gave the village excellent or good ratings for both the value of services for taxes paid and the overall goal Skokie is taking. Some 64 percent said the government is doing an excellent or good job in local government.
- Revitalizing Downtown Skokie - Twenty-three percent said downtown Skokie redevelopment is essential, while 31 percent said it is very important. Thirty-two percent said it is somewhat important and 13 percent said it is not important at all.
What services do people care about most?
The top three are strongly or somewhat support questions posed by the village:
- Continue sidewalk snow plowing, 72 percent.
- Continue twice per week refuse pick-up, 68 percent.
- Increase street resurfacing, 65 percent.
The following were the most opposed:
- Revitalize other shopping commercial areas such as East Oakton Street, Main Street, 61 percent.
- Increase the number of property standards inspectors, 58 percent.
- Revitalize Dempster Street, 55 percent.
The most important initiatives in Skokie -
Of those surveyed, 67 percent said elderly care is essential or very important. Sixty-five percent said at-risk youth programs were also very important while 64 percent said receiving emails and crime alerts were also very important.
What were the least important initiatives?
Of those surveyed, 71 percent said increasing vehicle sticker fees to hire more police officers is not important. Coming in second was redeveloping Dempster Street at 58 percent and finally, new bike paths received a 57 percent vote as being not important, according to the survey.
What are the biggest problems in Skokie?
- Property taxes came in first at 42 percent as being a "major problem."
- Coming in second, unsupervised youth, 24 percent.
- Drugs came in at 20 percent.
What are the largest non-problems in Skokie?
- Too much growth, 34 percent.
- Unmaintained properties, 21 percent.
- Traffic congestion and unsupervised youth, 17 percent (tie).
Other notables -
Quality of life has increased from 86 percent in 2003 to 87 percent in 2006. However, it has since declined over the last six years, coming in at 81 percent in 2009 and 2012, according to the survey. It should be noted, however, that all of the percentages stated are above the national benchmarks, according to the NRC.
In 2012, 80 percent said they would remain in Skokie for the next five years, down five percent from 2009.
The overall appearance of Skokie is up, from 74 percent in 2009, to 77 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, residents were asked to reflect on their economic prospects in the near term. Only 24 percent of residents expected that the coming six months would have a somewhat or very positive impact on their family, up from 15 percent in 2009.
Community involvement -
Only 19 percent of people attended a local public meeting in 2012, down from 24 percent in 2009. Twenty-six percent said they watched a public meeting on TV, which is about the same (27 percent) in 2009. The following ranked "much less" when compared to the national benchmark, the NRC said.
With the April 9 elections around the corner, 86 percent of Skokie's population said they are registered voters and 77 percent said they voted in the last general election.
Which household member took the survey?
The NRC used the birthday method which selects a person within the household by asking the "person whose birthday has most recently passed" to complete the questionnaire. According to the NRC, the underlying assumption in this method is that day of birth has no relationship to the way people respond to surveys.