The same FBI statistics that rated the Mobile, Al., metro area’s murder rate as one of the nation’s highest also show less violent crime in the area than in nearly a third of the other communities surveyed, says the Mobile Press-Register. The Mobile area was seventh in homicides per 100,000 residents in 2008, and fifth in robberies. It ranked 102nd in violent crimes overall. Compared with other Southern cities, Mobile’s crime was relatively low, as homicide and robbery cases were cushioned by smaller numbers of assaults and rapes.
Police Deputy Chief James Barber, who fielded calls from a fearful public after the Press-Register published the FBI homicide numbers last week, cautioned that using the statistics to compare crime rates can produce a distorted picture. “It’s not an apples to apples comparison,” he said. Laura Dugan, a University of Maryland criminologist, agreed that the ranking of metropolitan areas is often misleading. Indeed, the FBI itself urges caution in using its data, saying that, “These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses.”