Thursday, March 7, 2013

More On "Most Dangerous" City Rankings

On Monday I posted this about a Cleveland area TV station taking another media outlet to task over a story that listed Cleveland as one of the nations "Most Dangerous Cities".

Yesterday I found this piece at the St. Louis, Missouri are news outlet KMOX where they quote a University of Missouri criminology professor as saying that the methodology of these kinds of crime rankings is "baseless". The story points to one of the leading sources for this kind of city rankings: CQ Press and then points out one flaw in their methodology.

“Cities that are small parts of their metropolitan area tend to run artificially high because persons from outside the city who are in the city and may become crime victims aren’t counted,” explained Rosenfeld, who also works for the City of St. Louis as “Criminologist in Residence” at the Department of Public Safety.


Every year CQ Press will issue a teaser press release where they rank cities according to "dangerousness" and then offer to sell you the complete report. Usually the press release will generate a few news stories and then cause great consternation for the city leaders who's cities are placed on top of this list.

Of course the problem of ranking cities by the numbers of reported crimes and then pronouncing some of them "Most Dangerous" occurs with such regularity that the FBI devotes an entire page of their website as to why you shouldn't do this.

The FBI's Caution Against Rankings page has some great insight as to why such simplistic rankings are not valid.


  1. Scott, way to stay on top of this story. You are so right about a seamingly insignificant press teaser causing grief for the named locations.

  2. Scott, Thanks for the comment. These rankings really are problematic. Don't get me wrong, I think a law enforcement agency should be transparent with their crime stats and should be held accountable. However, it would be much more valid and a lot fairer to compare a city to itself. How did we do this year compared to last? Have we made the community safer over the past ten years?


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