Crime Rankings: Simple-Minded Error Or Filling A Vacuum?


The Washington Post has weighed in on the controversy over the latest “dangerous, safest” city rankings, this year published by Congressional Quarterly Press. The trouble with rankings, said FBI spokesman Bill Carter, is that they do not take into account the many factors that affect criminality in any city. The numbers, he said, don’t include factors such as residents’ perception of what constitutes a reportable crime, or a population’s ethnic, racial or generational makeup.

Michael Tonry, University of Minnesota law professor and until last week president of the American Society of Criminology, said the FBI numbers don’t account for the concentration of crime, an important determinant of overall safety. Heavily urbanized cities will have more crime per capita, he said, than sprawling ones such as Phoenix, whose boundaries encompass low-crime outskirts. “This is a crude, simple-minded error” in the CQ ranking, Tonry said. CQ editor Doug Goldenberg-Hart said the rankings are “filling a vacuum and filling it in a way that allows people around the country to ask pointed questions.”


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