Most Dangerous Cities–City and State Crime Rates–Pleasing Everyone is Hard to Do

Updated with five new sources, November, 2010.

We started Crime in America.Net for a variety of reasons from learning search engine marketing to providing material to our students. One of the lessons we’ve learned is that folks from the Internet do not read—they skim—and they want short and hopefully interesting/entertaining articles.

Nowhere is this more evident than this post which we’ve revamped considerably to get users directly to the information they’re looking for.

ProBlogger ( suggests that any blog administrator ask “what problem are you solving for your users” and proceed from there. For our students and some users, summarizing long and complicated federal research is peachy; it’s just what they want.

But there are two kinds of Internet users; the audience you seek and the audience you get, and you have to serve them all.

We got complaints that this post was too preachy; we provided too many warnings about the inadequacy and misleading nature of crimes reported to police. Users just want to know what neighborhoods, cities and states were the most dangerous and that’s it. To accommodate them, we redesigned the post to make it easier to find comparison information.

Then we got complaints that we were ignoring the complications associated with crimes reported to law enforcement agencies and the unreliable nature of the data.

Folks, the reality of the web “is” the new reality. No one is suggesting that inaccurate data serves the public, but we reach more people through this site than a lifetime of adjunct teaching. Solving problems for your audience through 400 words or less or summarizing research leaves out important information. We include links to more substantive analysis, but it’s up to the reader to pursue those links

It’s not our job to preach but to offer the best data in “chunks” that the public can use and understand. That may be difficult for some of our colleagues to accept, but welcome to the new reality of the Internet.

Updated with five new sources-November, 2010

For those who want the most direct answer as to cities and crime,  see the following links: (newest link-posted November 22, 2010)

. There are four tables from the Georgia State University providing homicide rates by city. Generally speaking (but not always)  homicides and violent crimes rise and fall together.

The following are commercial publications. Note that some criminologists have issues with the interpretation of data:

Wikipedia offers Data carries pages of general interest data for all cities and metropolitan areas–it’s searchable by zipcode–for crime related data; see ” Top 101 City Lists” on the front page.

Buying or renting a house:  

Many come to this site for assistance in choosing a safe place to live. For an article addressing buying or renting, see  We caution readers to personally investigate the immediate and surrounding neighborhoods as an important first step.

Readers who want details: Additional crime sources available, Comparisons of  individual communities, states , and countries 

The material below provides some of the best sources in the country:

Additional sources for crime data: 

Start with the FBI

Michigan State University offers a wide array of data sources. See .

There are resources comparing states:

There are resources comparing countries:

There are resources comparing individual communities within cities (most dangeruos communities)

There are resources with state-to-state comparisons of the most stolen cars:

There are resources comparing states and teenager criminal or dangerous behavior:

Additional sources:

Background–the difficulity of comparing jurisdictions–reported and unreported crime and crime rates:

Crime statistics are confusing and frequently misunderstood. There are criminologists who spend their professional lives investigating the complexity of crime data.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects crimes reported to law enforcement agencies through state collection agencies and releases statistics for the nation, states, metropolitan areas and cities twice a year.

The National Crime Survey from the National Institute of Justice releases crime survey data for the country based on reported and unreported crime and does not offer crime statistics for states, metro areas or cities. See for differences as to FBI and National Crime Survey data. 

The FBI frowns on using data reported to law enforcement agencies to make comparisons of one city to another, and for good reasons.

Most crime is not reported to the police (thus the need for the National Crime Survey to get a picture of total crime) so there is a lot of room for error. Law enforcement agencies can affect the amount of crime reported through aggressive interactions with citizens.

The FBI and state crime data collection agencies try to enforce common definitions on what constitutes a crime, but individual officers can (and do) downgrade crimes where definitions are vague. For example, an overaggressive person (or people) asking for money could be guilty of panhandling or robbery; it depends on how you interpret the aggressiveness of the person “asking” for money.

Some cities have been known to downgrade crimes. The past is filled with documented examples. Some cities do poor jobs of collecting and analyzing crime data.

Most crime rankings are based on crimes per 1,000 residents which immediately creates an unfair playing field if you get thousands of tourists or workers per day. Those thousands of “outsiders” will inevitably commit crimes or inadvertently create opportunities for crime that would not exist in cities or states not getting a lot of tourists or daily workers.

So the bottom line is that crimes and crimes reported can and will differ for reasons having little or nothing to do with the quality of policing or crime control strategies.

Having said this, the warning from the FBI is routinely ignored by every newspaper in the country; all report on how their city or county or state ranks regarding crime.

So if you choose to look at rankings, please do so with an open mind. A city or state may have crime problems, but hundreds of thousands or millions of its citizens and tourists and workers move throughout their city in relative safety on a daily basis.



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