Several times a year, we see media outlets use crime stats to "rank" cities and generate news stories with lurid headlines like "Most Dangerous City in America". This happens in spite of the fact that this practice is overly simplistic and strongly discouraged by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports program.
Normally, we see city officials complaining about this treatment. I saw this article last week at the Cleveland area news outlet WKYC where they were the ones pointing out the problem with a Forbes story that labeled Cleveland as the 9th "Most Dangerous City in America".
Forbes based it's "Most Dangerous" ranking on an FBI database that collects violent crime statistics from across the county.
The Forbes ranking is based on the number of crimes. It does not take other factors into consideration, such as per capital crime, age of the city, demographics or size.
"It's cautioned all over our website saying, please don't use this as a ranking system," says Special Agent Vicki Anderson with the Cleveland FBI office.
The story goes on to point out that in spite of the perception that downtown Cleveland is unsafe, an analysis of Cleveland area crime stats showed that the majority of crime in Cleveland is not occurring in the downtown area. In fact, less than 4% of these violent crimes happened in the downtown area.
As the WKYC story points out, labeling a city "Most Dangerous" is terribly simplistic and isn't quite fair to the people that live and work in a community. I'm just glad that it's not just city officials that are complaining about this practice.