And Oakland moves down a slot, to number five on the list!
Doubtlessly, this news will result in the same litany of excuses from the Mayor and Police Chief that we heard last year about how the rankings (PDF) aren’t accurate and besides, most of the good citizens of Oakland can rest easy at night, safe and sound, because crime isn’t a problem in their neighborhood. Remember this gem from last year:
In Oakland, police Chief Wayne Tucker said people might be misled by the report.
“The department is always interested in how we’re being rated,” he said, “but I think a rating can be very deceptive.”
He said being ranked fourth on the list of dangerous cities could easily lead people to believe the whole city is under siege from crime. Tucker said the reality is that crime is concentrated in “two reasonably small areas” in East and West Oakland.
We might also expect to hear, like we did last week from Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, that violent crime is down from last year. This was untrue last week, and continues to be untrue this week. Property crime is down, but violent crime is up.
That’s the comparison as of November 20th (xls).
Anyway, back to the rankings. This year’s top 10:
1. New Orleans, LA
2. Camden, NJ
3. Detroit, MI
4. St. Louis, MO
5. Oakland, CA
6. Flint, MI
7. Gary, IN
8. Birmingham, AL
9. Richmond, CA
10. North Charleston, SC
And as a reminder, here’s how Oakland fared over the last decade:
2001: ? (not in top 25)
Anyway, I do agree that ranking cities as “most dangerous” or “safest” is a kind of silly thing to do. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with looking at the statistics and noting that we have more violent crimes per capita than almost any other US city or where our property crime rate per capita falls or anything like that, but I just find the way CQ Press phrases their list really odd. (Update: After I posted this, I saw that they’ve dropped the “most dangerous” and “safest” labels from the rankings. Oh well. The way these used to label their list was odd.)
In any case, when you read about this in the newspaper, and see everybody jumping up and down trying to discredit the rankings, like this:
“We don’t need a poll to tell us that public safety is the No. 1 issue in the hearts and minds of Oakland residents and the top priority for the mayor’s administration,” said Paul Rose, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Dellums.
He attacked the credibility of the report.
“The FBI questions the use of the statistics, which forces many to question the validity of such a poll,” he said.
Indeed, criminologists and law enforcement across the country pan the most-dangerous cities list when it is published every year. This year, the report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people. Its conclusions were based on per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft.
Just remember that whether Oakland is more or less “dangerous” than Detroit (#3) or Atlanta (#16) or San Francisco (#102) or Berkeley (#132) or Los Angeles (#158) isn’t the point, and shouldn’t be the issue. The problem is that CRIME IN OAKLAND IS TOO HIGH, and that’s true regardless of any kind of ranking anyone wants to do, or any comparison to this year or last year or whatever year, or anything that happens in any other city.
BTW, it’s the Mayor’s birthday today.