Most dangerous cities in America? St. Louis, here I come!
The CQ Press just came out with its list of most dangerous cities in America. I know where I'm moving! Colonie, N.Y.? No, even though its crime rate is 82.49 points below the national average. That would be lulling myself into a false sense of security.
I'm going to St. Louis -- number one in the rankings!
True, there is always a lot of controversy surrounding this kind of report, from people saying things like, "I wish you wouldn't use our data this way; there are a lot of factors that go into crime," and other people saying things like, "It generates discussion, and that's healthy," to still other people saying things like, "While you were discussing this, I was robbed at gunpoint eight times!" So there seems to be a range of opinion.
The FBI, whose "Crime in the United States 2009" served as the basis for the report, warned that:
Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.
That's true. After reading the report, I had a vision of a plucky group of outsider criminals getting together after school in St. Louis with their teacher Mr. Schuester. "Do you want to make it to nationals?" Mr. Shue asks, "Then we really ought to jack a few more cars!" "Yeah, Mr. Shue!" the criminals respond, "Otherwise Camden's going to take the title for another year in a row!" Based on this, I picture Camden as the Vocal Adrenaline of crime-ridden cities. "Please, we always win," I picture its gangs saying. "We don't even need to try this year. We're going to take tonight off and go volunteer at the soup shelter."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors called this a "premeditated statistical mugging of America's cities." That's my favorite kind of mugging! It's better than the non-premeditated, non-statistical kind, which is what you get in St. Louis (according to the report.)
But every year, I eagerly scan through the list of most dangerous cities, looking for danger and excitement. I'm moving out of New York City! Too safe! It's only the 269th most dangerous city, according to these composite crime rankings! I'm moving somewhere dangerous like Topeka (#146) or Portland (#174). Portland must be dangerous because of all the bicycles! Bicycles are like cars but with a greater sense of entitlement.
Sometimes I think that the area I am living in is not dangerous enough, so I run outdoors and paint a mural. Little-known fact: the more murals a neighborhood has, the less safe it is. Walking past an actual mugging scares me less than coming down a dark alley late at night and seeing a mural entitled The Triumph of the Human Spirit. That tells you that you are probably not going to make it out of there intact.
I once took a self-defense course that said that if someone approached you and started to take your belongings or your virtue, you were supposed to yell specific things at the passersby. "You! You in the orange shirt!" you were supposed to scream, and the person in the orange shirt was supposed to come to your aid. I worry that this would happen to me when the only defining characteristic of the person walking by was something I didn't want to comment on. "You, with the unsightly mole!" "You! You with the seeing-eye dog!" "You! Obese man!" I would wind up just saying polite, euphemistic things and not getting any assistance. "You! Beautiful person!" "You, valued individual whom I am sure many people love!"
Sure, living in a crime-filled area can be annoying and dangerous. It forces you to invest heavily in pepper spray. If you aren't good with the pepper spray, it forces you to develop poor money management skills to take the "pay-off" out of it for the mugger. "Sorry, I have already spent all my money on mascarpone and Hummel dolls!" you will say, turning your pockets inside out. Apparently, cars are more unnerved by it than people. Sometimes you come out of the door in the morning and notice that your car has decided it can't take it anymore, even though it has your iPod and one of your credit cards inside it at the time.
But if I really want danger, this might not be the best approach. According to the 2007 mortality data from the National Vital Statistics Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the real dangers are from things like heart disease, malignant neoplasms, and accidents.
In 2007, more than 123,000 people perished in accidents whereas 18,000 died in assaults. But some of those don't sound like accidents to me. For instance, "Water, air and space, and other and unspecified transport accidents and their sequelae" result in 1816 untimely annual demises, and that sentence doesn't seem like it rules out "human catapult" as a form of "unspecified transport."
Still, they say most people know their killers. That's why I keep refusing to add "Heart Disease" as a friend on Facebook.
| November 22, 2010; 3:12 PM ET
Categories: Epic Failures, Petri, Worst Things Ever | Tags: city, scary
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