Criminologists Condemn City Crime Rankings
ATLANTA, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The executive board of the American Society of Criminology (ASC) has approved a resolution opposing the development of city crime rankings from FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCRs). "These rankings represent an irresponsible misuse of the data and do groundless harm to many communities," said ASC President Michael Tonry, professor of law and public policy at the University of Minnesota. "They also work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public." Since 1994, Morgan Quitno Press, a tiny Lawrence, Kan.-based publisher, has produced an annual list of the "safest" and "most dangerous" U.S. cities. CQ Press, a division of Congressional Quarterly, Inc., purchased Morgan Quitno in June 2007, and is scheduled to publish the rankings again next week. The resolution, approved at the ASC's annual meeting now under way here, states: "Be it resolved, that the Executive Board of the American Society of Criminology opposes the use of Uniform Crime Reports data to rank American cities as 'dangerous' or 'safe' without proper consideration of the limitations of these data. Such rankings are invalid, damaging, and irresponsible. They fail to account for the many conditions affecting crime rates, the mismeasurement of crime, large community differences in crime within cities, and the factors affecting individuals' crime risk. City crime rankings make no one safer, but they can harm the cities they tarnish and divert attention from the individual and community characteristics that elevate crime in all cities. The American Society of Criminology urges media outlets to subject city crime rankings to scientifically sound evaluation and will make crime experts available to assist in this vital public responsibility." The Society's resolution is the second passed in recent months deploring crime rankings by community. Last June, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a similar measure, which also committed the Conference to working with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice "to educate reporters, elected officials, and citizens on what the (UCR) data means and doesn't mean." In addition, the FBI has posted the following disclaimer on its Web site with the UCR data: Caution Against Ranking -- Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. 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 that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment. About the ASC The American Society of Criminology is an international organization concerned with criminology, embracing scholarly, scientific, and professional knowledge concerning the etiology, prevention, control, and treatment of crime and delinquency. This includes the measurement and detection of crime, legislation, the practice of criminal law, as well as a review of the law enforcement, judicial, and correctional systems.
SOURCE American Society of Criminology
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