By DAVID N. GOODMAN – DETROIT (AP) — In another blow to the Motor City’s tarnished image, Detroit pushed past St. Louis to become the nation’s most dangerous city, according to a private research group’s controversial analysis, released Sunday, of annual FBI crime statistics.
The study drew harsh criticism even before it came out. The American Society of Criminology launched a pre-emptive strike Friday, issuing a statement attacking it as “an irresponsible misuse” of crime data. The 14th annual “City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America” was published by CQ Press, a unit of Congressional Quarterly Inc. It is based on the FBI’s Sept. 24 crime statistics report.
The report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people based on per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. Each crime category was considered separately and weighted based on its seriousness, CQ Press said.
Last year’s crime leader, St. Louis, fell to No. 2. Another Michigan city, Flint, ranked third, followed by Oakland Calif.; Camden, N.J.; Birmingham, Ala.; North Charleston, S.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Richmond, Calif.; and Cleveland. The study ranked Mission Viejo, Calif., as the safest U.S. city, followed by Clarkstown, N.Y.; Brick Township, N.J.; Amherst, N.Y.; and Sugar Land, Texas.
CQ Press spokesman Ben Krasney said details of the weighting system were proprietary. It was compiled by Kathleen O’Leary Morgan and Scott Morgan, whose Morgan Quitno Press published it until its acquisition by CQ Press. The study assigns a crime score to each city, with zero representing the national average. Detroit got a score of 407, while St. Louis followed at 406. The score for Mission Viejo, in affluent Orange County, was minus 82.
Detroit was pegged the nation’s murder capital in the 1980s and has lost nearly 1 million people since 1950, according to the Census Bureau. Downtown sports stadiums and corporate headquarters — along with the redevelopment of the riverfront of this city of 919,000 — have slowed but not reversed the decline. Officials have said crime reports don’t help.
Detroit police officials released a statement Sunday night disputing the report, saying it fails to put crime information into proper context. “Every year this organization sends out a press release with big, bold lettering that labels a certain city as Most Dangerous, USA,” Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said in the release.
“It really makes you wonder if the organization is truly concerned with evaluating crime or increasing their profit,” said Bully-Cummings, who noted the complete report is available only by purchase. “With crime experts across the country routinely denouncing the findings, I believe the answer is clear.”