Making Sense of Crime Data
This morning, former RCGA head and World Class City Dweller, Dick Fleming, sent us the City Crime Rankings 2013 Report by CQ Press. The numbers contained therein required a lot of examination today, but here is what we found.
According to the CQ Report, "To be included in the comparative analysis for crime, cities and metro areas must report data for SIX crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft. All metro areas and all cities with populations of 75,000 or more that reported crime data to the FBI were included. A number of cities and metropolitan areas did not report complete crime information for 2011."
Here are the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA's) NOT included in the report because they did NOT report crime data "for specific offenses." For example, "Forcible rape statistics were not available for the Chicago metropolitan area as well as all metropolitan areas in Minnesota." Here are some cities that did not report data in the way the FBI requested:
Chicago (greater), IL-IN-WI
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL, M.D.
Grand Forks, ND-MN
La Crosse, WI-MN
Mankato-North Mankato, MN
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI
St. Cloud, MN
According to the CQ Press Report, "Another group of metropolitan areas were not included in the comparative analysis because the FBI did not report data for them in its 2011 Crime in the United States report. No clear explanation was given as to why these MSA's did not report the required data to the FBI. These metropolitan areas are:
Burlington-South Burlington, VT
Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC
Coeur d'Alene, ID
Greensboro-High Point, NC
Lake Charles, LA
Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
Providence-New Bedford-Gall River, RI-MA
St. George, UT
Shreveport-Bossier City, LA
Because these aforementioned MSA's did not report the FBI data in the required form, they were not included in the crime report. What a good break for them! Why do they get a break?
The St. Louis, MO-IL MSA is the 19th most populated in the country (US Census Bureau), but our crime ranking is 91 based on the 2011 report, FAR below what one would expect statistically. Our MSA crime ranking is very low in a comparative sense. It is NOT HIGH as many often portray our community.
Here are the Top 20 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA's) in the USA with the highest crime rates in the 2013 FBI report, "Crime in the United States 2011" --
1. Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI M.D.
2. Pine Bluff, AR
3. Flint, MI
4. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
5. Stockton, CA
6. New Orleans, LA
7. Myrtle Beach, SC
8. Little Rock, AR
9. Mobile, AL
10. Jackson, TN
11. Miami-Dade County, FL M.D.
12. Oakland-Fremont, CA M.D.
13. Lawton, OK
14. Anderson, SC
15. Fayetteville, NC
16. Texarkana, TX-Texarkana, AR
17. Fresno, CA
18. Danville, IL
19. Anchorage, AK
20. Detroit (greater), MI
So friends, what is one to conclude from all this? Well, first we start with the damage to the reputation of our community every time the City crime rankings come out. In the 2011 report the City of Saint Louis ranks number 4 in crime among cities above 75,000 people (with its paltry 66 square miles of space compared to, for example, Phoenix with its 517 square miles of city space). But the truth is, nearly everyone I have talked to about this says that MSA crime numbers are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than City crime numbers because no one knows where the criminal lives, and cities vary so much in physical and population size! This is the logic often mentioned by the FBI. The Saint Louis MSA is 19th in size, but our MSA crime ranking is 91. There is a message here don't you think? Our overall crime rate is VERY low compared to our population size. Why do the local media not report that simple fact?
Secondly, if an elephant stands on your foot and it hurts, wouldn't it make sense for the elephant to get off your foot? In the case of STL metro, if a whole bunch of MSA's and cities get a pass by NOT reporting crime data in a way the FBI approves, why do those cities get a pass and Our Town is continually viewed as a high crime area, when it is NOT!!
If we don't like the negative ranking for the City, why does the City keep reporting the data at the expense of everyone who lives in the Saint Louis MSA? Perception matters! Perception becomes reality.
Seems like a simple solution here -- quit reporting the City data or ONLY report crime data by Saint Louis City and County combined, or by Saint Louis MSA, and not just by the City. Trust us, when you look at Saint Louis City and County combined or by Saint Louis MSA, our crime numbers look very good. And isn't that the community most of us live in everyday? And gosh forbid -- we might attract more jobs if the truth were reported about crime in Saint Louis Metro!
And finally, remember this -- Chicago had 72 people shot over the past three-day July 4th Weekend, including 12 murders! And they get a pass when it comes to crime because they do NOT report crime data like the FBI wants? Again, we ask this question -- where is the fairness in all this? The murder capital of America does NOT appear on the high crime list of CQ Press. Go figure.
Please, get that elephant off our foot!
When Statistics are used by Liars and Damn Liars
Saint Louis Metro is NOT a High Crime Area
Charles D. Schmitz, Ph. D.
Dean and Professor Emeritus
University of Missouri - Saint Louis
Here we go again, Morgan Quitno comes out with their bogus crime statistics one more time! Do these people have no shame? Is selling a book more important than representing the truth, honestly and fairly?
I have more than four decades of experience in higher education and I can assure you of this - if Morgan Quitno were in a basic college statistics class they would fail the course miserably! There is no doubt about that!
Years ago, I learned this truism - statistics are for liars and damn liars! Simply stated, any statistical data in the hands of someone intent on misusing them are very dangerous tools. And those who share misguided and misrepresented data with the public in the name of profit should be ashamed of themselves. And frankly, shame on the media outlets that publish this garbage!
The 17th Edition of the Morgan Quitno report was released on November 22, 2010. They named "Saint Louis" as the most dangerous city in America. Good grief, when does this nonsense ever end? No rational human being would ever believe this idiocy.
Let's be honest here, the FBI, The American Society of Criminology, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (as well as others) have discredited Morgan Quitno's interpretation of the so-called "crime statistics" they so much love to quote and promulgate.
Moreover, the aforementioned chastise Morgan Quitno for "directly comparing cities, for damaging and distorting the reputation of cities with flawed research methodology," and for "their inaccurate and inflammatory press release labeling cities as 'safest' and 'most dangerous' - because the rankings are "baseless and damaging." They now use the terms "lowest U.S. crime rate ranking" and "highest U.S. crime rate ranking," but the damage caused to communities labeled by these terms is no less serious.
Dick Fleming, president of the Saint Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association said it best - "Morgan Quitno and CG rankings are, in my mind, the equivalency of civic defamation of character."
In 2007, the executive board of the American Society of Criminology passed a resolution that states: "These rankings represent an irresponsible misuse of the data and do groundless harm to many communities" and "work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public."
Here is the truth; almost all of the low-crime, more affluent areas of the Saint Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) are outside the much smaller Saint Louis City limits. The City area constitutes about 11% of the Saint Louis city and county area (524 square miles in Saint Louis County versus 66 square miles for Saint Louis City for a total of 590 square miles), and a far smaller percentage for the Saint Louis MSA, which is more than 8,500 square miles of area!
If data from adjacent Saint Louis County suburban areas and the greater Saint Louis MSA were included in the assessment of crime in "Saint Louis," the "Saint Louis" ranking would fall far, far down the so-called "cities" with the "highest crime" rates. In fact, by Morgan-Quitno's own rankings, the Saint Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area, the 18th most populated in the USA, ranks a very low 103rd in overall crime! Wouldn't it have been more appropriate for them to report this more appropriate ranking? (Click here for Metropolitan Rankings)
Criminologist Dr. Rick Rosenfeld and his associates at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, previously confirmed to me this fact - when compared to other large urban counties, Saint Louis County's crime rate per 100,000 residents is actually among the lowest in the nation for large metropolitan areas. For example, they reported an average drop of crime of nearly 20% for the first half of 2009 compared to the same time period in 2008. Moreover, there were only two murders, compared to the six in 2008 - and this for a county with nearly 1 million people!
Using the crime statistics relevant to the 66 square miles of Saint Louis City to paint the broad brush of crime in the 524 square miles of Saint Louis County and the more than 8,500 square miles of the entire Saint Louis MSA, is not only dishonest, it is downright dishonest. Make no mistake about that. Criminologists say that if rankings have to be done at all, ranking metropolitan areas is fairer than ranking cities.
(America's Most Dangerous Cities, 2011 by Forbes.com)
Last year, the City of Chicago, and the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis-Saint Paul and many others weren't even included in the rankings, because they didn't meet the FBI criteria for reporting their crimes. There are many other examples of inconsistency. Does apples and orange come to mind?
Another problem with all this is that there is no standard definition of a city, which leads to this conclusion - rankings are based on pure geographic happenstance! The boundaries of what constitutes a "city" matter!
Remember, statistics are for liars and damn liars. Morgan Quitno's continuing nonsense proves my point! And here is the bottom line - metropolitan areas that get their label of "highest crime" suffer immeasurable harm in the eyes of the world community, and at a cost of millions of dollars to their local economies.
"Saint Louis," is it finally time to act? Is it finally time to recognize that we ARE ALL ST. LOUIS! The division of who we are is killing us as a community in the eyes of the world. If you are satisfied with being portrayed as a high crime area, do nothing. If you are fed up, support the work of the World Class City Group www.STLWorldClassCity.com to statistically redefine who we are before it is too late in the global economy.
Contact co-chairs: Charles Schmitz at Charles_Schmitz@umsl.edu or Bill Frisella at firstname.lastname@example.org