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FBI Releases List of Most Dubious Statistics of 2009

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The FBI’s “Crime in the U.S. 2009” is out and causing the usual stirrings of schadenfreude among the nation’s visitors’ bureaus.

St. Louis, Mo., with 2,070 violent crimes per 100,000 residents last year, topped the list, closely followed by Camden, N.J.

Next in line are the twin SNAFUs parading as cities, Detroit and its neighboring Flint. Three California cities, among them the storied land of the Crips and Bloods, Compton, also made the top 10.

Miami Beach came in at No. 42, Miami at No. 51, Las Vegas at 76 and Los Angeles at No. 158.

New York, meanwhile, came in at eyebrow-raising No. 269 of 400 cities, putting its violent crimes statistics significantly below the national average.

Las Cruces, N.M., on the other hand, with a population of 95,000 mostly students and people working for the military in some capacity, ranks No. 230, well above both the national average and above New York and Los Angeles.

Before you start muttering “lies, damn lies and...,” note that the FBI counts as “violent crimes” murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and, most dastardly offense of all, motor vehicle theft.

Las Cruces is 50 miles from the Mexican border, and car theft, which goes relatively unpunished for lack of jurisdiction, is practically a local sport there.

Even the FBI downplays the significance of its statistics, claiming essentially that only a sociologist with a strong grounding in criminology and city planning is truly qualified to interpret the numbers.

“One city may report more crime than a comparable one, not because there is more crime, but rather because its law enforcement agency, through proactive efforts, identifies more offenses,” the FBI says in a rather lengthy cautionary preamble to its stats. “Attitudes of the citizens toward crime and their crime reporting practices, especially concerning minor offenses, also have an impact on the volume of crimes known to police.”

Crime numbers, the agency says, also take into account the relative number of teenagers and transients in a given city, and the overall likelihood that citizens will report crimes.

Click here to see CQ Press’ list of the full 2009 results.
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