At least once a year, St. Louis faces a wealth of media criticism and bad publicity when the Washington D.C.-based publisher CQ Press releases its annual City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America report. This publication consistently ranks St. Louis as one of the most dangerous cities in America, and the city is subsequently portrayed as such in the media. Though this publication is often quoted by the press, virtually all criminology experts (including the FBI and U.S. Council of Mayors) believe the CQ’s methods to be faulty and its data very unreliable. Scott Morgan, the co-editor of the publication himself, said during a television interview in 2006, “I am stunned if there is a criminologist out there who will support this.”
It is our hope to set the record straight about St. Louis crime rates, as well as any other cities whose reputations have been tarnished because of this flawed publication, by revealing the gross inaccuracies of this study.
Check out this recent Gallup Survey which reports 74% of St. Louisans feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live. That puts St. Louis as the 14th safest city on the list of the 50 most populous MSA’s in the county.
The CQ Press’ ranking system measures a city’s per-capita incidence of six different crimes: murder, robbery, rape, burglary, aggravated assault and motor-vehicle theft. This rate is then compared to the national average. The differences in these six crime areas are averaged together to produce an overall score representing the difference between the rate of crime in St. Louis and the national rate.
Words from the top:
The validity of these rankings has been heavily debated. Here is what some prominent figures in criminology had to say concerning these inconsistencies.
“These rankings represent a gross misuse of FBI data. Everyone with the slightest knowledge of this issue knows the rankings are not credible, but the publication persists with them, presumably because rankings are popular and sell books.”
–Annise D. Parker, Mayor of Houston and Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee
“Such rankings are invalid, damaging and irresponsible. City crime rankings make no one safer, but they can harm the cities they tarnish and divert attention from the individual and community characteristics that elevate crime in all cities.”
– The American Society of Criminology
Learn more about the publications inaccurate crime rankings:
Why city crime rankings offer a misleading picture by Richard Rosenfled, USA Today, 11/29/07
In Crime Lists, Nuance is a Victim by Carl Bialik, The Wall Street Journal, 12/4/10
St. Louis most violent? It’s not so simple, expert says by Ashley Fantz, CNN, 11/22/10
Parker says city’s ranking a real crime by Bradley Olson, Houston Chronicle, 11/22/10