For several years, a publishing company has been peddling warmed-over FBI crime data assembled in book form and labeled “city crime ratings,” complains the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial. Critics argue “that the listings amount to pseudo-scientific junk cynically packaged in the trappings of official law enforcement data to make a fast buck. They are right,” says the newspaper.
The principal complaint is that there is no meaningful way to compare the incidence of crime from city to city, much less any meaningful way to make useful judgments about what city is more dangerous than another. Such “hucksterism” shouldn’t be supressed, says the Post-Dispatch, citing the “constitutional right to cut, paste and publish FBI crime data into meaningless form and puff it up as if it were valuable.” The newspaper warns librarians who may want to purchase the new volume at $55 that “al the data in the book are government statistics available online for free, and the way the book uses numbers renders them worthless.”