According to a report entitled "City Crime Rankings: Crime In Metropolitan America", released today by CQ Press, Anchorage, Alaska is still one of the safer cities in the United States. Out of 378 American cities rated, Anchorage was only the 125th most dangerous city (or, if you prefer to see the glass as "half-full", the 254th safest city). Anchorage was the only Alaska city rated because only cities of 75,000 or more population were evaluated. Main menu for all CQ Press reports related to this story HERE.
However, before we rest on our laurels, the same report revealed that Anchorage has clearly become less safe with the passage of time. In 2006, out of 371 American cities rated, Anchorage was only the 160th most dangerous city, so we have deteriorated noticeably, despite Mayor Mark Begich's persistent efforts to increase the number of police officers (now at 368).
Surprisingly, Anchorage wasn't rated as dangerous as Salt Lake City (108th most dangerous), but was rated considerably more dangerous than New York City, of all places (237th most dangerous).
Because this story is so new, there's been no local media reaction yet. Out of curiosity, I also decided to check racial statistics in City-data.com to see if there is still a racial correlation. Here's the top ten most dangerous and safest nationwide, along with the percentage of whites in each city:
Top Ten Most Dangerous Cities:
1 Detroit, MI - 11% white
2 St. Louis, MO - 43% white
3 Flint, MI - 40% white
4 Oakland, CA - 24% white
5 Camden, NJ - 7% white
6 Birmingham, AL - 24% white
7 North Charleston, SC - 43% white
8 Memphis, TN - 33% white
9 Richmond, CA - 21% white
10 Cleveland, OH - 39% white
Top Ten Safest Cities:
1 Mission Viejo, CA - 76% white
2 Clarkstown, NY - 76% white
3 Brick Twnshp, NJ - 93% white
4 Amherst, NY - 88% white
5 Sugar Land, TX - 61% white
6 Colonie, NY - 91% white
7 Thousand Oaks, CA - 78% white
8 Newton, MA - 86% white
9 Toms River Twnshp, NJ - 90% white
10 Lake Forest, CA - 67% white
And yes, there is still a racial correlation, enough so that, even considering poverty as an additional factor, there is still plenty of support for the relationship between race and crime expressed by Jared Taylor in his research report, The Color of Crime.
Until this year, these annual rankings were collected, compiled and reported by Morgan Quitno. However, CQ Press, a division of Congressional Quarterly, Inc., purchased Morgan Quitno in June 2007, and took over the process. The rankings are loosely based on the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) statistics released on September 24th, 2007. CQ Press explains their methodology HERE.
This report is already coming under fire from a number of sources. PRNews reports that the U.S. Conference of Mayors sharply criticized the report, complaining that the annual city-by-city crime rankings are distorted and damaging to cities' reputations.
"These rankings are based on the misuse of FBI data," said Rochester, N.Y. Mayor Robert Duffy, a former police chief and Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee. "And they would be laughable were it not for the genuine damage they inflict on the convention business, economic development and tourist trade -- not to mention the civic pride -- of the cities that come out on the wrong end for no legitimate reason. We are urging media outlets, which have given the rankings broad coverage in the past, to reconsider their approach".
Among other reasons the rankings are bogus, the Conference said, are these:
(1). In computing the rankings, Morgan Quitno/CQ weights automobile theft as equal to homicide. "Most people would probably prefer to have their car stolen than to be murdered," Mayor Duffy noted. "You would not know this from the rankings". [Ed. Note: Typical moral relativism. I would prefer to have NEITHER happen to me.]
(2). The rankings are shaped in good measure by the geography of the city they examine. Older U.S. cities are generally smaller and do not contain middle-class, low-crime areas that lie in their suburbs; newer cities, by contrast, tend to have wider boundaries that contain these neighborhoods.
The American Society of Criminology (ASC) also took a swipe at the report. According to Earthtimes, they have approved a resolution opposing the development of city crime rankings from FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCRs), and issued the following statement:
"Be it resolved, that the Executive Board of the American Society of Criminology opposes the use of Uniform Crime Reports data to rank American cities as 'dangerous' or 'safe' without proper consideration of the limitations of these data. Such rankings are invalid, damaging, and irresponsible. They fail to account for the many conditions affecting crime rates, the mismeasurement of crime, large community differences in crime within cities, and the factors affecting individuals' crime risk. City crime rankings make no one safer, but they can harm the cities they tarnish and divert attention from the individual and community characteristics that elevate crime in all cities. The American Society of Criminology urges media outlets to subject city crime rankings to scientifically sound evaluation and will make crime experts available to assist in this vital public responsibility".
In addition, the FBI has posted the following disclaimer on its website with the UCR data:
Caution Against Ranking -- Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment.
However, CQ Press defended their report. Doug Goldenberg-Hart, acquisitions editor at CQ Press, said that the rankings are imperfect, but that the numbers are straightforward. Cities at the top of the list would not be there unless they ranked poorly in all six crime categories, he said. "The idea that people oppose it, it's kind of blaming the messenger," Goldenberg-Hart said. "It's not coming to terms with the idea that crime is a persistent problem in our society."
The report "helps concerned Americans learn how their communities fare in the fight against crime," CQ Press said in a statement. "The first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand the true magnitude of their crime problems. This will only be achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and understand."
The study excluded Chicago, Minneapolis, and other Illinois and Minnesota cities because of incomplete data.