Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Danger and Safety All About Crime - More Police the Only Answer

There has been a lot of news recently regarding CQ Press' Report on City Crime Rankings. They rank the most dangerous cities and safest cities and the corporate media loves these lists so they repeat the assertions and headlines proclaim things like Oakland ranked 4th most dangerous U.S. city, Richmond ranked 9th.

CQ Press notes that these rankings are controversial. But according to their site, the criticisms seem to mainly be about the many factors contributing to crime, the fact that crime may be isolated to certain neighborhoods within a city, and the economic impact the report has on tourism. In other words, various city politicians and chambers of commerce don't want people with money to think of their city as dangerous.

The biggest criticism I have is that it focuses on crime, and specifically "violent crime, murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft." These are hardly the greatest factors in determining whether a city is dangerous or safe. I would add environmental factors such as smog, proximity to dangerous facilities such as nuclear power plants and refineries, access to affordable health care and critical services, traffic and traffic accidents, workplace safety, and injuries and deaths caused by law enforcement (which are often not prosecuted as crimes).

I would also argue that the crime factors they take into account are more often a problem of poverty and inequality in a community. This is particularly important when some cities take these rankings as a cue to hire more police officers even when they are considered one of the safest cities. With millions in prison is this still the best we can do? The corporate media and cities would do better to pay closer attention to the studies and reports from the Justice Policy Institute than these simplistic rankings that get so much attention and lead to such bad policies.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007