Perhaps the biggest crime in York City right now is a huge perception problem, according to York City Police Chief Wes Kahley.

The chief said he is often asked to explain or defend crime statistics by those who question the city's so-called high crime rate.

The truth is, Kahley said, York City is safer than it was two years ago — or 26 years ago.

From 2011 to 2013, police calls downtown have decreased 25 percent, assault with a firearm is down 100 percent and robbery is down 70 percent, he said.

Statistics show police calls downtown dropped from 861 in 2011 to 645 in 2013; assualt with a firearm decreased from seven in 2011 to zero last year; and robberies dropped from 40 in 2011 to 12 in 2013.

"(These statistics) give me a better idea of what's happening," Kahley said Wednesday morning at a Downtown Inc meeting in Central Market.

The meeting was designed to offer a downtown update to a large crowd of city leaders, residents and supporters.

Because of information that spreads quickly through media outlets and social media, there's a false perception that York City is a more dangerous place than true statistics suggest, Kahley said.

Part 1 crimes have decreased 47 percent since 1988, he said. Part 1 crimes are considered by the FBI to be the most serious crimes and include robbery, rape, assault, homicide, burglary and vehicle theft.

And last year marked the first in a long time that York City had lower crime statistics than Lancaster, Kahley said.

"(The city) is not what it was when I was a kid," Kahley said, recalling a time when everyone shopped at major department stores downtown, the streets were decorated for the holiday season and sidewalks were full of shoppers. "But you've all done a great job at getting people back here. That tells me more than statistics."

The York City business community is helping to erase the false perception plaguing the city, he said.

"Truth is, there's been a huge reduction in crime," Kahley said.

—Reach Candy Woodall at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.