Large cities with most, least crime

CQ Press has compiled a list of the safest and least safe big cities in terms of crime:

The study by CQ Press found St. Louis had 2,070.1 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, compared with a national average of 429.4. That helped St. Louis beat out Camden, which topped last year’s list and was the most dangerous city for 2003 and 2004.

Detroit, Flint, Mich., and Oakland, Calif., rounded out the top five. For the second straight year, the safest city with more than 75,000 residents was Colonie, N.Y.

I would not have guessed St. Louis as topping this list. Of course, St. Louis doesn’t like this ranking and suggests that the crime situation in the city has been improving:

The annual rankings are based on population figures and crime data compiled by the FBI. Some criminologists question the findings, saying the methodology is unfair.

Greg Scarbro, unit chief of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, said the FBI also discourages using the data for these types of rankings.

Kara Bowlin, spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, said the city actually has been getting safer over the last few years. She said crime in St. Louis has gone down each year since 2007, and so far in 2010, St. Louis crime is down 7 percent.

Erica Van Ross, spokeswoman for the St. Louis Police Department, called the rankings irresponsible.

“Crime is based on a variety of factors. It’s based on geography, it’s based on poverty, it’s based on the economy,” Van Ross said.

“That is not to say that urban cities don’t have challenges, because we do,” Van Ross said. “But it’s that it’s irresponsible to use the data in this way.”

It probably doesn’t matter if methodology is good or bad for these rankings because what really matters is public perception. If St. Louis becomes known as a city of crime, comparable to places like Camden, Oakland, Detroit, and Flint, this could have a negative effect on the number of businesses and residents who want to move to the area. It is not a surprise to see the City of St. Louis fight back by attacking the data and also suggesting that crime rates have gone down in recent years (though this is relative and doesn’t give an indication of how their crime rate compares to other places).

(I was curious to see where Chicago and its suburbs, such as Naperville, ranked. Unfortunately, it looks like the data for the whole Chicago MSA was not available.)

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