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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Surveys' findings are not always accurate

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back in the day of the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat, we would laugh about their habit-by-design of writing three or four articles each year called "Bootheel Bashing." Actually the articles - in my opinion - were to point a finger at some of the ugly aspects of our region of the state thereby making the city of St. Louis look a bit better. Perhaps that was not their aim but you'll never convince me.

The big city newspaper would talk about the poverty and illiteracy and backward nature of the Bootheel and then we would not hear from them until the next time they wanted to bash our region. The Post-Dispatch was not far behind when it came to slamming our region. In a limited defense, our region does indeed have ample problems to discuss. But we also have ample opportunities which seem to get lost with the urban media folk.

So in return, I have for 30 years taken delight in pointing a finger toward our friends in St. Louis when their dirty laundry is aired. Turnabout is fair play.

But today I rise in defense of our city dwelling fellow Missourians in light of the latest crime statistics out by the FBI. Last year, St. Louis was rated the most dangerous city in the United States based on a complex formula that measures certain crimes based on population. The rankings are subjective in many ways and every single city near the top of the crime list takes great exception to the findings. Of course, those cities ranked as the safest find no objection to the report. No surprise there.

This year however, the old favorite - Detroit - has returned to the top spot in the danger category and St. Louis is now ranked second.

Before I defend St. Louis, let me point out the obvious. Every single city in the top 10 most dangerous is also ranked high in the low income categories. Crime and poverty are related as this and countless other surveys always find. You can draw your own conclusion from this parallel. Just understand that the relationship between crime and poverty is absolute. Same holds true for wealthy communities. Those areas with high income always come in at the top of the safe category.

But knowing a little bit about the geography and make-up of St. Louis, let me say that not all of St. Louis is cause for concern in terms of crime. Not by a wide margin. There are parts of the city that are as safe if not safer than our community. The problem in St. Louis is largely in the north part of the city where - you guessed it - poverty abounds. I don't know the numbers but I bet if you exclude north St. Louis, the city becomes a fairly safe haven by any measure. But that's not how the game is played.

Every city on the dangerous list will suffer somehow. Tourism will be impacted and conventions may be reluctant to hold their gatherings there. And that is unfair.

I'll give you another example. Long, long ago I lived in Memphis which is also in the top 10 dangerous category. But even today, Memphis is an incredibly safe city if you avoid some obvious neighborhoods of concern. So to lump the entire city into this category is misleading. And it hurts business. Which in turn takes dollars away. Which in turn creates more poverty. Which in turn creates a growing atmosphere for crime.

And that's the problem with most surveys of this nature. They use a broad brush to describe a community when a finer brush gives much more accurate detail.

It's hard to celebrate being the second most dangerous city but St. Louis should celebrate nonetheless. Progress is sometimes measured in small steps. This is a perfect example.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen