Monday, October 30, 2006

Springfield: Massachusett's Most Misrepresented City...

Every year we go through this and every year it gets more aggravating.

Morgan Quitno, a Kansas-based publishing company, has released their much-anticipated and much annoying most/least dangerous cities in America. By the grace of God or simply escalating violence elsewhere, Springfield did not fall anywhere in the top twenty of most dangerous, but rather rounded out the top thirty.

However, that did not protect Springfield from being the most dangerous city in Massachusetts. Now, I do take some solace that Springfield won’t be flashing across a CNN news-ticker as among the top twenty. However, this will come up when we try to coax business and residents into the city. As Police Commissioner Flynn pointed out today, most of the city’s neighborhoods are perfectly safe, if not safer than most of the neighborhoods of some cities beneath Springfield on the list.

Most maddening, and the leaders of the 29 more dangerous cities might agree, are the terms and means MQ used. First of all, they use hot-button words like safe and dangerous. Just like Pres. Bush and Cheney might say Republican or Death. The conclusion of most dangerous city is based on convoluted evidence. Morgan Quitno determines most dangerous by comparing the number of “dangerous” crimes, murder, rape, assault, and robbery plus burglary and auto theft to the cities’ population.

Now here’s the error. They weigh each of those crimes equally against the city’s population. Even among the four “dangerous” crimes I outlined, there is differing severity. Assault and robbery are not nearly as horrible as murder and rape. In addition, since when is auto theft and burglary (since most are not committed when the occupant is home) on par with any of the first four? If a crime escalates to that level, then the criminal is committing a concurring crime of assault or worse. Needless to say, most burglaries and auto thefts are startling and an inconvenience, but hardly dangerous. In fact, a number of cars are found and returned in less than a month! The study unfairly weights a city’s “dangerousness” with crimes that only threaten insurance rates not lives.

This ignores the underreported nature of rape which, could call into question the “safest” statistics. Arguably, the murder and assault that “rampages” our streets is tied to drugs. Rape is not, in my view. Tragically, it occurs everywhere regardless of social, economic, or geographic status. Now, if we account for all rapes, reported or otherwise, it would inflate Springfield’s numbers. However, we would also find that the safest cities confronting soaring crime rates, too.

I’m not faulting the raw data. It’s just FBI info, supplied by the city. It is how that data is interpreted that is the problem here.

As a sidebar, some citizens have filed for an injunction to stop the city’s trash fee. While, I believe the fee to a be municipal travesty, I also believe that we need to focus on getting the tax base up. The fee, which is legal and not a tax, contrary to some views, plugs up the deficit and maybe provides for development which will enable a once and future empowered City Council to abolish the fee. In the meantime, we can swallow the $90 and pitch in for the long run.

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