The U.S. Conference of Mayors Challenges City Crime Rankings

Nov 18, 2007, 00:00 ET from U.S. Conference of Mayors

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Conference of
 Mayors today sharply criticized the latest "Most Dangerous Cities" list
 released by CQ Press, saying the annual city-by-city crime rankings are
 "distorted and damaging to cities' reputations."
     "These rankings are based on the misuse of FBI data," said Rochester,
 N.Y. Mayor Robert Duffy, a former police chief and Chairman of the U.S.
 Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee. "And they would
 be laughable were it not for the genuine damage they inflict on the
 convention business, economic development and tourist trade -- not to
 mention the civic pride -- of the cities that come out on the wrong end for
 no legitimate reason. We are urging media outlets, which have given the
 rankings broad coverage in the past, to reconsider their approach."
     Mayor Duffy was referring to an annual ranking of the "safest" and
 "most dangerous" U.S. cities compiled for the last 13 years by Morgan
 Quitno Press, a tiny, Lawrence, Kan.-based publisher. CQ Press, a division
 of Congressional Quarterly, Inc., purchased Morgan Quitno in June 2007, and
 began publishing these rankings this year.
     Morgan Quitno's rankings, and now CQ's, are loosely based on the FBI's
 annual Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) statistics. The UCR program, which dates
 from the 1930s, gathers crime statistics from thousands of U.S.
 communities, for the purpose of helping individual communities track their
 own crime trends and for detecting national patterns.
     Among other reasons the rankings are bogus, the Conference said, are
     -- In computing the rankings, Morgan Quitno/CQ weights automobile theft as
        equal to homicide. "Most people would probably prefer to have their car
        stolen than to be murdered," Mayor Duffy noted. "You would not know
        this from the rankings."
     -- The rankings are shaped in good measure by the geography of the city
        they examine.  Older U.S. cities are generally smaller and do not
        contain middle-class, low-crime areas that lie in their suburbs; newer
        cities, by contrast, tend to have wider boundaries that contain these
     In addition, the FBI became so concerned by the rankings that it posted
 a disclaimer on the web site where it posts the UCR figures
 ( The
 disclaimer reads:
     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.
     Also, the Conference of Mayors last June passed a resolution critical
 of the rankings The
 resolution 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 data means and doesn't mean."
     On Oct. 17, the U.S. Conference of Mayors joined the FBI,
 representatives of the non-profit group Criminal Justice Journalists, and
 two noted academic criminologists in voicing their concerns about the
 city-by-city crime rankings to representatives of CQ Press. They asked the
 publishing firm to suspend publication of the city-by-city rankings, and at
 a minimum to include the FBI disclaimer in any press releases they issued
 about the rankings.
     "We explained to CQ Press how they are misusing the FBI's annual UCR
 (Uniform Crime Reports) statistics to create these city crime rankings, but
 they have persisted in releasing their 'Most Dangerous Cities' list
 anyway," said Mayor Duffy. "We are disappointed in their decision. These
 rankings are simply not valid, and they lead to false comparisons that
 damage our nation's cities."
     Contact: Elena Temple

SOURCE U.S. Conference of Mayors