Sunday, November 18, 2007

Let the games begin!

The 14th Annual "Safest and Most Dangerous City" crime rankings as compiled and calculated by the good folks at Morgan Quitno Press, now a part of CQ Press, have been released. Prepare for the yearly debate over the validity of these rankings.

In years past, Trenton has not fared too well in these rankings. For example:

14th Most Dangerous City in 2006 overall, 4th Most Dangerous City with a population of 75,000-99,999. And Trenton had the 9th largest drop in ranking from 2005 to 2006.

27th Most Dangerous City in 2004, 4th Most Dangerous City with a population of 75,000-99,999.

And such.

Now let's be honest, the 2006 rankings were based upon the crime stats from calendar year 2005. Since we had a record homicide rate (31) that year, we'd hardly expect a good showing. Interestingly, the Police Director started really pumping the "Crime Is Down" mantra just about the time those rankings were released last year. That was also about the same time there was a sudden "drought" of crime reports coming out of Police HQ.

Of course, when the rankings came out the City Spin Doctors went into overdrive.

"Questionable methodology," "can't compare only numbers," and other responses were flowing forth from Director Santiago, City Public Information Officer Kent Ashworth, Mayor Palmer and others. And they weren't alone in refuting the validity of the rankings.

NPR ran an interview with the Mayor of St. Louis,Missouri, 2006's "Most Dangerous City" and he was livid about the (false) implications of the rankings.

At the other end of the spectrum, "Clean, Safe and Beautiful Hamilton Township" was the 31st Safest City in 2006. And don't think for one minute the Gilmore machine was above a little puffery and false pride in their rating.

So, which is it? Are the rankings just worthless data manipulation that are meaningless in the real world? Or are they a reasonable measure of just how successful one municipality's policing efforts are compared to others?

This year's rankings (based on the 2006 crime stats..."the lowest in 40 years in Trenton") place Trenton as the most improved but the 7th most dangerous city of it's size (75,000-99,999) and 39th most dangerous/340th safest city overall.

We've got our "number one" as the most improved in the rankings from last year to this (more properly from 2005-2006). And we're still in the top 10 most dangerous cities of our size/top 50 most dangerous nationwide.

Any guesses on what we'll hear coming out of the propaganda machines at 319 E. State Street and 225 N. Clinton Avenue?

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