We like to think it's pretty rough out here on the streets of Los Angeles.
It seems like every hour we hear about another murder or robbery at gunpoint. So why, in this year's annual CQ Press crime rankings, does the City of Angels slide into a wimpy 162nd Place? (We've even dropped a few spots this year, from 154 in 2009 and 158 in 2008.)
That's like handing a "participation" ribbon to Mike Tyson. Right?
Not that we're hoping to climb the ranks. It's damn relieving that L.A. can't hold a flame to No. 1 winner St. Louis, MO, or No. 5 Oakland, California's top contestant -- but how on Earth did we jog in dozens of spots behind hodunk towns like Anchorage, Alaska, and Charlotte, North Carolina on a list of 400?
Come on, even Berkeley's at No. 111. WTF.
According to CQ Press spokesman Ben Krasney, L.A.'s separatist sprawl is to blame for its apparent peacefulness -- along with the fact that some especially violent smaller cities have been gouged from its limits.
The way the stats are calculated doesn't include these factors. Unless you feel like plowing through this excruciatingly detailed "methodology" PDF, here's our janky interpretation of the ranking process: Each city is given a population-to-crime ratio, based on reported case of murder, rape, robbery, burglary and motor-vehicle theft, and arson. Those numbers are then slightly adjusted to account for severity of crime and significant rate of change from previous years.
So, seeing as L.A. houses about 4 million citizens, our crimes-per-year total in gang-infested areas surrounding downtown is diluted by a divisor that includes massive sleepy suburbs on the more affluent edges of the city.
Krasney explained that L.A.'s annual murder rate is only slightly above the national average of 5, at 8.1. Inglewood and Compton, on the other hand -- separate L.A. County cities that mesh into the folds of downtown -- are listed at 24 and 36, respectively.
"L.A.'s got one of the highest populations in the country for major cities," he said. "And if high crime areas are listed as separate cities, then they can't factor into L.A.'s ranking."
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He made sure to add that the entire report, with cities given separate rankings for the six types of violent crime, is available online for a mere $14.95. We'll just wait for the PDF to leak, thanks.
Coincidentally (or not), the FBI also released national hate-crime numbers today. According to the somewhat shaky and badly organized data, St. Louis -- though it may be CQ Press' violent-crime Mecca -- is apparently not so "hateful."
Hmm. Either Missouri's urban criminals are more forward-thinking than ours -- unleashing pure unprejudiced violence upon the masses -- or things are so bad over there, nobody's even bothering to attach the "hate" label anymore. At least we beat them at something?