Each September the FBI publishes a ‘Crime in the United States’ report based upon statistical data submitted by local law enforcement agencies across the nation. The report contains a caveat against drawing of any conclusions resulting from direct comparisons between cities.
And each year, some web-zines and sundry publications both real and virtual will ignore that warning in their race to publish lists of towns where you don’t want to be stuck on the wrong side of the tracks.
At least one magazine, Forbes, gets it right by going behind the raw numbers to adjust them according to rising or declining populations, and relevant subjective factors. The latter include the city’s unemployment rate, corruption in public office, and success of local sports teams.
Detroit was fourth on the magazine’s list of America’s most dangerous cities last October.
The Detroit Police Department, data driven under both Chief Ralph Godbee and his predecessor Warren Evans, has a group of people keeping Detroit crime data down at the neighborhood level. The Crime Analysis Unit keeps tab on the hot spots so the chief knows where to allocate his assets. The CAU will get its own column and is mentioned here to show that crime statistic are not just for geeks and crime writers.
Any list of this most country’s most dangerous cities will use the FBI statistics pertaining to violent crimes as a starting point. Nationally. there has been a downward swing across the board for these crimes.
Murder and other criminal homicides: -2.7%
Forcible Rape: -5.0%
Aggravated Assault : -4.1%
In Detroit criminal homicides, a category which provides a good working example, dropped from 364 in calendar year 2009 to 308 in 2010, a 15.4% drop. But that number does not take into account the change in the city’s population over the same period.
It’s startling to see how much Detroit, once called the Paris of the mid-west, has bled people in the 21st century. In 2000 it was home to 951,270 people. At the mid-point of the first decade, 2006, the population had dropped to 871,121. In the years since, it has further tumbled to 713,777.
The merging of these statistics, homicides per year and population, produces the number of criminal homicides per capita, one solid benchmark of dangerousness. This writer will pass on doing the math for Detroit, but Forbes will (probably looking at the number of homicides per 10.000 people). The magazine will also look at calendar year 2011 homicide stats, and those are grim.
Detroit is on track to hit 300 or more unlawful homicides this year, and could easily top last year’s 308 killings. That, coupled with an expected population decrease over the same period, would mean a hike in homicides per capita.
Last October, Forbes’ five most dangerous cities were: 1. Cleveland, OH; 2. Stockton, Cal; 3. Memphis, Tenn; 4. Detroit, MI; and Flint, MI. Expect Detroit to be there again next month.