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 Is St Louis Really Dangerous? Understanding the Report
By: Darin "Sid" Cameron, CRS
Tue, Oct 31st, 2006 4:32 pm

Yesteday the Associated Press ran an article naming St Louis the most dangerous city in the U.S.  Today we're going to take a look at the report that article was based on.

Statistics don’t Lie; Statisticians However…

At first glance the methodology the authors of the report (Morgan Quitno Press) used seems simple and straight forward. Using numbers from the FBI’s 2005 Uniformed Crime Report on six major crime categories- murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft- the authors have added up the number of crimes per 100,000 residents and then subtracted the national average.

The end result gives each city a number which is then put into a ranking If a town is under the national average (a number below zero), it is on the safest city list; if it’s above the national average (a number above zero) it’s on the most dangerous list. The six statistics were weighted evenly.

However there are flaws in the reporting. To start, not every city provides crime statistics to the FBI or classifies crimes the same way (i.e. a robbery in one town might not be classified as a robbery in another town). As a result, several major cities- including Chicago, New Orleans and the Cleveland Metro Area- were not included in these reports because they either don’t report crime statistics or they were deemed too unreliable to include. That means cities like New Orleans- and its murder rate- are being ignored. Also missing were several smaller cities near Oakland/Sacramento, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Chicago, IL; and Orlando, FL- to name a few.

In other words, the easiest way to keep your town off of the “Most Dangerous” list is to simply not report crime statistics!

At the same time, other major cities that were included in the report don’t break out their city crime from their outlying suburbs. As a result crime statistics from cities like Honolulu, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Louisville, Las Vegas, and Savannah have their city statistics blurred with (presumably) lower county/suburb statistics.

But the big white elephant in the room is the fact that the Morgan Quitno’s press release and the Associated Press’ news story are only looking at CITY crime statistics, not the overall metropolitan areas’ statistics (also known as a Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA) even though MSA statistics paint a much more realistic comparison between cities and are included in the Morgan Quitno report!

Why are MSA statistics more realistic? If you don’t live in St. Louis, realize that St. Louis City is actually a very small part of the overall metro area. The entire population of the St. Louis area is approximately 2.8 million people which include people in St. Louis City as well as St. Louis, St Charles and Jefferson Counties in Missouri and Madison and St. Clair Counties in Illinois. Of that 2.8 million people, St Louis City is only 340,000 people- or roughly 12% of the areas population. It’s also an equally small part of the overall metropolitan’s geographical area.

Look purely at those city statistics and you could mistakenly compare St. Louis to, say, Anchorage, Alaska- with a population of approximately 300,000 people they are roughly the same size statistically!

More important, making assumptions about a metropolitan area when you are only looking at statistics from a small percentage of the overall geographical area can result in some dramatically wrong results- as we’ve seen with this report! It's like packing ski boots and a fur parka for a trip to California's Death Valley Desert because somewhere in California there's a mountain with snow on it.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the METRO ranking for the whole St. Louis region to see how it compares.

[ Next Article: Is St Louis Really Dangerous? The Metro Area Rankings ]
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Darin "Sid" Cameron spent 15 years working in the technology industry which in 1998 relocated him to St. Louis. In 2004 he took over web development tasks for Kimberly's real estate team and later became the full-time Marketing and Operations Director in 2005. In 2011 Sid launched two brokerages, The Realty Store, Inc. and Realty Referral Partners, Inc, while continuing to perform marketing and operations for Kimberly's team. Sid holds a real estate broker's license in Missouri, CRS certification and was the first CyberStar in the St. Louis area.
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