How Seriously Should We Take the New 'Most Dangerous Cities' List?

According to Google Earth, St. Louis doesn't appear to be on fire

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On Sunday, CQ Press released its annual list of America's most dangerous cities [PDF]. The study ranks cities by violent crimes per 100,000 residents, taking into account murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft. According to the list, St. Louis is the most dangerous city in America. Meanwhile, Camden, New Jersey, which topped the list in 2009, has fallen to no. 2 this year. The top 10 also includes Detroit, Oakland, Cleveland, Gary, Indiana, and Flint, Michigan. The list has drawn a fair bit of criticism, however, from people who say that CQ's take on urban safety is oversimplified.

  • Many of These Are Perfectly Lovely Cities  Gawker's Max Read points out that "a lot of the top 25 are pretty okay places! (Except for Washington, D.C., which is a horrible, horrible city.)" (Editor's note: The Wire is based in Washington, D.C. Sadface.) Read notes that "even Camden has a pretty nice aquarium. I mean: Ranking cities based on their crime rates is a pretty depressing and frankly sort of irresponsible way to think about cities, and crime, and urban living, and so forth! But let's not let that stop us from making lists, which, as we all know, is the best thing about being human."

  • New York Is What Number?  At New York Magazine, Mike Vilensky marvels that "New York City is the 269th most dangerous place in the United States, though danger is perhaps all relative." Vilensky also notes that "Erica Van Ross, a rep for the St. Louis Police Department, called it 'irresponsible' to use crime data for the sole purpose of making listicles." (In fact, what Van Ross actually said is that "crime is based on a variety of factors. It's based on geography, it's based on poverty, it's based on the economy... That is not to say that urban cities don't have challenges, because we do... But it's that it's irresponsible to use the data in this way.")

  • St. Louis: We're Actually Getting Safer  A report at St. Louis Public Radio notes that "the FBI has in the past said its crime numbers should not be used the way CQ Press does to develop the rankings. The U.S Conference of Mayors has also rejected the study's methodology. Kara Bowlin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay said crime has gone down in the city each year since 2007."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.