Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco top the list of homicide rankings of U.S. cities when data are adjusted for demographic and social factors. Criminologists from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Georgia State University, and Carnegie Mellon University this week issued rankings of 67 cities based on 2002 crime numbers.
In releasing the report, Georgia State University said that “police and other public officials, especially in high-crime-rate cities, often complain that ranking cities by their crime rates is misleading and unfair because cities differ in poverty, unemployment, and other crime-producing factors beyond their control.” Researchers Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri, Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon, and Robert Friedmann of Georgia State used a statistical model that adjusts each city’s homicide figures for such factors. The experts say the model produces a more meaningful comparison of city homicide levels, especially for judging the effectiveness of criminal justice policies and programs.
Five cities drop and six cities rise by thirty or more spots in the ranking when differences in economic disadvantage and population size and stability are statistically controlled. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, and Newark fall by thirty or more spots, and Anchorage, Colorado Springs, Honolulu, Omaha, San Francisco, and San Jose rise by thirty or more spots after the statistical adjustment. The homicide rank of other cities remains relatively unchanged. Washington, D.C. is near the top of both rankings. Las Vegas rose from number 8 to number 1 and San Francisco from 41 to 3.
The 67 cities in the study comprise all cities with populations greater than 250,000 in 2000. They contain about 17 percent of the nation's population but account for 42 percent of the homicides committed in the U.S. in 2002. The study was conducted for the project “Improving Crime Data” (ICD). ICD, funded by the National Institute of Justice, is an initiative of the Great Cities Universities, a consortium of 20 urban public research universities.