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Adam Smith's Blog

By Adam Smith | Other/Just Looking in Washington

City and State Crime Rates-Top Ten Cities

City and State Crime Rates-Top Ten Cities

See http://crimeinamerica.net for full article.

Crime Rankings for Cities and States—Crime in America.Net

(Please see “Crime in the United States” on the header of this site)

We get frequent requests for crime rankings for cities. According to Google, it’s one of the most popular terms for crime related searches.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects crimes reported to law enforcement agencies through state collection agencies and releases statistics for the nation, states, metropolitan areas and cities twice a year.

The National Crime Survey from the National Institute of Justice releases crime survey data for the country based on reported and unreported crime and does not offer crime statistics for states, metro areas or cities.

The FBI frowns on using data reported to law enforcement agencies to make comparisons of one city to another, and for good reasons.

Most crime is not reported to the police (thus the need for the National Crime Survey to get a picture of total crime) so there is a lot of room for error. Law enforcement agencies can affect the amount of crime reported through aggressive interactions with citizens.

The FBI and state crime data collection agencies try to enforce common definitions on what constitutes a crime, but individual officers can (and do) downgrade crimes where definitions are vague. For example, an overaggressive person (or people) asking for money could be guilty of panhandling or robbery; it depends on how you interpret the aggressiveness of the person “asking” for money.

Some cities have been known to downgrade crimes. The past is filled with documented examples. Some cities do poor jobs of collecting and analyzing crime data.

Most crime rankings are based on crimes per 1,000 residents which immediately creates an unfair playing field if you get thousands of tourists or workers per day. Those thousands of “outsiders” will inevitably commit crimes or inadvertently create opportunities for crime that would not exist in cities or states not getting a lot of tourists or daily workers.

So the bottom line is that crimes and crimes reported can and will differ for reasons having little or nothing to do with the quality of policing or crime control strategies.

Having said this, the warning from the FBI is routinely ignored by every newspaper in the country; all report on how their city or county or state ranks regarding crime.

So if you choose to look at rankings, please do so with an open mind. A city or state may have crime problems, but hundreds of thousands or millions of its citizens and tourists and workers move throughout their city in relative safety on a daily basis.

Having said all this, you still probably want the data.

Start with the FBI http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm and then move on to sites that do direct comparisons. Michigan State University probably offers more data than you want, but it’s an interesting site never-the-less. See http://staff.lib.msu.edu/harris23/crimjust/stats.htm#reports2.

A new site supported by well known and reputable criminologists with funding from the US Department of Justice-National Institute of Justice ranks city homicides adjusted by economic considerations: http://www.cjgsu.net/initiatives/HomRates-PR-2010-01-21.htm.

Even Wikipedia offers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate.

There are also resources comparing countries:

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita

There are resources comparing states:

http://blogs.kansascity.com/crime_scene/2010/04/which-states-are-most-crimeridden.html

Additional sources (probably closer to what you are asking for):

http://www.city-data.com/ (they carry pages of crime related data—see city lists on the front page)

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