Memphis Chief: Reporting Differences Skew Crime Rankings


A new ranking released says the eight-county Memphis metropolitan area has the nation’s second-worst crime rate, behind only Pine Bluff, Ark., reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The city of Memphis ranks 14th on the list compiled by CQ Press, a division of SAGE Publications. The news revived the debate about the value of such rankings. Critics say they misuse FBI statistics, and the FBI itself warns that comparing cities’ stats can produce simplistic conclusions.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin called the rankings hogwash, saying the reporting discrepancies between cities skew the numbers. “I think it’s wrong to compare cities. Other cities do not report crime as we do,” Godwin said. “We need to be comparing ourselves to ourselves each year and trying to make it better.” Godwin cited New York City’s policy of not reporting auto break-ins unless losses top $1,000. “We take a report if they break the little window,” the police director said. “If your vehicle was broken into and 50 cents was taken, we report it.” Said University of Memphis professor Richard Janikowski: “Unquestionably, we have some problems in Memphis, but there are built-in problems with these rankings. Each state has its own state laws as to what is an aggravated assault or a motor-vehicle theft.” Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell agreed that the comparisons may not be accurate, but said that shouldn’t obscure the fact that crime remains an issue.


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