Every year Forbes comes up with a “Most Dangerous Cities” list. These tend to get everybody in a tizzy despite the fact that they are relatively meaningless. This year, Baltimore came in 10th on the list because of this little statistic:
Violent Crimes per 100,000: 791
Hmm, seems reasonable enough. Here’s your methodology, for some perspective:
To determine our list, we used violent crime statistics from the FBI’s latest uniform crime report, issued in 2008. The violent crime category is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. We evaluated U.S. metropolitan statistical areas–geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use by federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing federal statistics–with more than 500,000 residents.
In these lists “Most Dangerous” means “Most Likely To Be Violently Criminalized,” which is a decent proxy, but certainly hides the whole story. It’s not like just by entering Baltimore your are going to be assaulted compared to when you enter a “less dangerous” city on the list.
But this is all old news. The big news is that Baltimore is now the 26th Safest City according to a new Forbes list, safer than seemingly safe metropolises like Virginia Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Charlotte (of course, on this list, 26th safest also means 13th most Dangerous…which is still an improvement, but, come on). So what gives?
To determine our list of America’s safest cities, we looked at the country’s 40 largest metropolitan statistical areasacross four categories of danger. We considered violent crime rates from the FBI’s 2008 uniform crime report; 2008 workplace death rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2008 traffic death rates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and natural disaster risk, using rankings from green living site SustainLane.com
Violent crime is now just a piece of the puzzle! Baltimore comes in at 34/40 in Violent crime, but gets 21/40 (aka the middle of the list) for safety in the workplace, traffic deaths and natural disaster risk. Take that Miami, with all of your old drivers and hurricanes and such! With this new methodology, Forbes has charmingly called this a “Safest Cities” list, which is a nice way of saying “Least Likely To Die In” list.
Of course, none of this is a big deal–most people realize that these lists are fun to click through but mean very, very little–unless the new list happens to make you WAY BETTER THAN THE OLD LIST. That is a shout out to my old stomping grounds of Detroit, which went from “Most Dangerous” to “12th Safest,” which, uh, good for you. I’ve said ever since I moved to Maryland that the drivers here are terrible. I guess I was just used to a higher quality of driver.
Of the 40 cities on the list, Detroit had the worst violent crime rate, but placed fourth safest for workplace deaths, 10th safest for traffic deaths and eighth safest for risk of natural disaster.
Insert comments about “it’s hard to have workplace deaths when nobody has jobs,” and the corollary of “nobody is driving because nobody goes to work” here, jerks.
Back to Baltimore, for all the people (like us) who talk about how much we love the city, and tirelessly defend the merits of our town, even in the face of damaging “most dangerous” lists that hurt the public perception, we now have a tiny pellet-sized piece of new ammo. Baltimore is less unsafe than we previously thought. Woo!