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Monday, October 30, 2006

Most dangerous cities list

I have a hard time buying the idea that Nashville is the seventh most dangerous city in the U.S., as a research company lately announced.

I realize that the company used data to come to its conclusions (which is the respectable thing to do), but I still have a hard time believing that Nashville is more dangerous than Houston, which placed tenth on the list of most dangerous cities above 500,000 in population. I've been to both cities, and I'm not buying it.

I think part of the problem lies in how cities are categorized. For example, according to the study (and the U.S. Census, depending on how data is presented) Nashville is larger than St. Louis and Atlanta. This is because cities are classified according to their literal population data within their city limits rather than by the population of their metropolitan areas. Does anyone really think Nashville is larger than Atlanta? I don't. (Atlanta did rank tenth on the list of most dangerous cities with populations of 100,000 to 499,000, for what it's worth.)

Further muddying the waters, the report separately lists the safest and most dangerous metropolitan areas. Nashville, assuming it is included in this count, doesn't even make the top 25 most dangerous metropolitan areas, but Jackson, Tenn., does. I love Nashville, but does anyone really think it is safer than the considerably smaller city of Jackson? Again, I sure don't. Detroit is the most dangerous metropolitan area and the second most dangerous city, and that makes sense anecdotally, too. But is Macon, Ga., more dangerous than Houston?

The study also omits Chicago, the nation's third largest city, because some of its crime statistics don't translate adequately for the report. (This is apparently an ongoing omission.)

I think this study is useful and hopefully will spur discussions of how to make communities, including Nashville, safer, but I won't be looking to it for an accurate assessment of safety in our cities.

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