List distorts Everett crime statistics

EVERETT — A controversial annual report that ranks U.S. cities based on crime statistics is expected to be released today and Everett again could get pegged as one of the most dangerous places in the country to live.

For the past two years, Everett was listed among the top 20 percent of cities with the most crime, according to the annual report published by CQ Press based in Washington, D.C.

Critics say the list doesn’t distinguish murders from property crimes, is misleading and is deeply flawed.

“Obviously, if they’re going to weigh all those (crimes) as the same, it does give a distorted view of the safety of a city,” Everett city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

This year, the publisher said it will change the terminology of the report but not the methodology, CQ Press spokesman Ben Krasney said.

Instead of calling cities “safest” or “most dangerous,” the list this year simply will be called, “city crime rate rankings,” and will list them accordingly, he said. “Due to concerns from criminologists about perceptions of risk in cities, we’ve changed our nomenclature,” Krasney said.

The ranking is based on total number of crimes drawn from FBI statistics and weighted for population so larger communities can be compared with smaller ones.

No matter what nomenclature or methodology is used to apply the FBI’s data, it doesn’t change the agency’s position, FBI spokesman Stephen G. Fischer Jr. said.

“These rankings lead to simplistic and or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents,” Fischer said in an e-mail interview, quoting a FBI written report.

Reardon said the report doesn’t make sense.

“We’re not necessarily sold on the way they do their methodology,” she said.

The study’s authors attempt to create one scale that summarizes the FBI statistics. They use six of eight data points gathered by the FBI — the total number of reported murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and motor-vehicle thefts — to come up with a community’s ranking.

Last year, Detroit; St. Louis; and Flint, Mich. ranked the three most-dangerous cities, according to the report. Mission Viejo, Calif.; Clarkstown, N.Y.; and Brick Township, N.J., were considered safest.

In that report, Everett placed 66th out of 378 cities nationwide, third-worst in the state. Seattle came in at 113th on the list.

Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said overall crime in the city has gone down in the first nine months of 2008 from same period in 2007.

“We’ll take a look at the report that they send out again, keeping in mind that we don’t agree with their evaluation process,” he said. “The statistics for this year are lower, but that in itself doesn’t give any credence to the way that CQ Press puts together their list.”

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said in his 2009 budget message that keeping residents safe remains one of his top goals. He’s proposed adding two new law enforcement positions and using technology to improve efficiencies within the department.

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