Another year, another flawed list of “Dangerous Places” released by CQ Publications. Same old, same old. TV stations especially enjoy taking prepackaged news like this and adding local commentary from people on the street who, having been propagandized by television news into believing “it’s a jungle out there”, parrot back the selfsame meme.
What does warm my heart is the fact that at least some members of the local media are starting to question the rankings from a methodological point of view. While including natural disasters is a step forward if what is in question is truly dangerousness, the most glaring omission of course is the rate of traffic fatality and injury which is much more closely related to place than the likelihood of being a victim of crime, which is much more a function of behavior, race, and social status.
It is true that the FBI, the source of the data, states clearly that the data shouldn’t be used to compare cities with cities because different jurisdictions have different criteria and see different levels of reporting. That should be enough to discourage this sort of list making, but, as I have previously gone into great detail to explain, what is called “a city” varies so much from place to place that, even if the data were perfect in terms of reporting and classification, comparisons would still be meaningless.
There are academics working on a sort of “value added” algorithm with respect to place and crime which takes into account socio-economic predisposition, if not idiosyncrasies of political jurisdiction and geography, to give a better understanding of what works in terms of crime reduction. What is not at all surprising is that the level of violence in some places is such that methodological differences have very little impact on their classification, whereas others are greatly impacted by the methodological improvement. Also not surprising is that the northeast, which broad assessments of violence and criminality demonstrate has a relatively low incidence of violent crime, is well served by the improved methodology.
Notice that every city in the northeast improves its ranking when using this improved methodology, while cities in the west and southwest in particular fare badly: