Lately, my neighborhood on the Berkeley-Oakland border has experienced a rash of crimes from home burglaries to hold-ups.
The teenage son of one of our neighbors was held up in broad daylight at our local public transit station. The obviously startled mother has called the police whenever she sees anyone fit the description of the perpetrator — a young African American man on a bicycle — but the man has not been caught, making us all feel uneasy.
Unfortunately, crime in Berkeley and nearby Oakland has shot up this year. Oakland actually made a list of most dangerous U.S. cities.
To the chagrin of residents in those cities, CQ Press, a unit of Congressional Quarterly, just released a list of the 10 most crime-ridden cities in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. The report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people and compared per capita rates on homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. “Each crime category was considered separately and weighted based on its seriousness,“ AP quoted CQ Press.
The cities CQ suggested we avoid — why else publish the list? — are the following:
1.) Detroit, Michigan
2.) St. Louis, Missouri
3.) Flint, Michigan
4.) Oakland, California
5.) Camden, New Jersey
6.) Birmingham, Alabama
7.) North Charleston, South Carolina
8.) Memphis, Tennessee
9.) Richmond, California
10.) Cleveland, Ohio
Well, if these folks have not seen their real estate values tank, they will now. Even the FBI criticized the CQ stats for its “simplistic“ view, which can cause harm to the cities’ image.
“These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region,“ the FBI said. “Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.“
Doug Goldenberg-Hart, acquisitions editor at CQ Press, said that the rankings are imperfect, but that the numbers are straightforward. Cities at the top of the list would not be there unless they ranked poorly in all six crime categories, he said.
“The idea that people oppose it, it’s kind of blaming the messenger,“ Goldenberg-Hart said. “It’s not coming to terms with the idea that crime is a persistent problem in our society.“
The report “helps concerned Americans learn how their communities fare in the fight against crime,“ CQ Press said in a statement. “The first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand the true magnitude of their crime problems. This will only be achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and understand.“
While I agree that such numbers are demoralizing, I would never prohibit anyone from conducting any research. Then I read this final graph in the AP story and I can’t help but think that Goldenberg-Hart is full of it:
The study excluded Chicago, Minneapolis, and other Illinois and Minnesota cities because of incomplete data.
Whoa. Chicago is only the second largest city in the country. It seems irresponsible to exclude it from such damaging research.
OTOH, I have noticed crime shoot up in my neighborhood. I blame it all on income disparity. As I have blogged before, yuppies like us are snagging real estate at ridiculous prices and former urban dwellers have nowhere to go. It is disturbing that, at least in my neighborhood, the victims of crime are whites and perpetrators impoverished blacks. Oftentimes, I walk by poles with posters of “Wanted“ black faces. I hate the racial overtones and income disparities that exist in our community and elsewhere.
CQ’s report also listed the safest cities in the nation, with Mission Viejo, California; Clarkstown, New York; Brick Township, New Jersey; Amherst, New York and Sugarland, Texas topping the list. Do you feel safe in your community, MotherTalkers?