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Monday, November 22, 2010

St. Louis vs Obama Admin's 2012 DNC Dirty Politics: Inflated Crime Rates

St. Louis Most Violent City? Obama Admin's Dirty Politics At Work: Inflated Crime Rates

Camden, New Jersey, has reason to celebrate today. It is no longer ranked as the most dangerous city in America.

Camden is now the second most crime-ridden city, second to St. Louis, Missouri, according to CQ Press, which annually publishes reference books based on academic and government data. The most violent city list is based on the FBI's 2009 uniform crime statistics covering murder, rape, burglary, robbery, aggravated assault and vehicle theft.

According to CQ, St. Louis had over 2,000 crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of about 430 crimes per the same number of residents. For the second straight year, Colonie, a suburb of Albany, New York, had the least crime.

But such rankings tend to be oversimplifications, experts say. What's more, the FBI discourages using its stats to make sweeping generalizations about crime and whole cities, said John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Andrew Karmen. He specializes in crime statistics and has written extensively about how they can be manipulated or presented in a biased way.

"When you look at these rankings and lists, the findings fall apart," he said. Crime reporting is nuanced and is affected by factors that can differ from one zip code to another, much less one city to another.

CQ, which sells its book on the findings for $70, acknowledges that, said spokesman Ben Krasney.

"The data is not flawless," he said. "We're a reference publisher, a starting point for other research. Crime rates within boundaries of a city – whether one neighborhood has more crime than another – we don't get into that."

Karmen said it's important to consider how, why and when crime is reported in different cities. If a police department is perceived as friendly, a welcoming place to file a report or come forward as a victim, crime stats are going to appear higher, for example.

Although "uniform" crime statistics are supposed to be just that, crime classification can vary. Vehicular manslaughter might not always be classified as murder, but rather a crime involving a vehicle, he said.

The faltering economy is also a huge factor in crime data.

CQ reports that the top five most violent cities in America, from first to fifth, are St. Louis; Camden; Detroit, Michigan; Flint, Michigan; and Oakland, California.

"Consider the industrial aspects of some of those cities and what has happened with jobs and those markets in the past few years," said Karmen. "The whole picture cannot be fairly reduced to a list."

Greg Scarbro, unit chief of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, said the FBI also discourages using the data for these types of rankings.

Kara Bowlin, spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, said the city actually has been getting safer over the last few years. She said crime in St. Louis has gone down each year since 2007, and so far in 2010, St. Louis crime is down 7 percent.

Erica Van Ross, spokeswoman for the St. Louis Police Department, called the rankings irresponsible.

"Crime is based on a variety of factors. It's based on geography, it's based on poverty, it's based on the economy," Van Ross said.

"That is not to say that urban cities don't have challenges, because we do," Van Ross said. "But it's that it's irresponsible to use the data in this way."

Survey Reveals Charlotte's Crime Problem Is Not Improving

Respondents to a survey organized by a Charlotte community organization disagree with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police statistics showing a dropping crime rate in the city.

About 80 percent of the approximately 500 people who participated in the survey said the crime problem in Charlotte is either unchanged or has gotten worse over the past two years.

The study was conducted in recent weeks by Neighbors For A Safer Charlotte, a grassroots organization founded in April 2008.

Their study results contrast with a steady stream of monthly crime statistics from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, showing -- for the most part -- that the crime rate has been dropping over the past 12 to 18 months. Earlier this week, CMPD statistics through March showed the overall crime rate is down 15 percent since the same time a year ago.

The survey results show that if CMPD statistics are correct, the perception among residents is that crime remains a big problem.

Respondents did not fall into the "lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key" category, as most of them said they support more mental health and substance abuse programs -- and said they believe only violent offenders should be put in jail.

Here are results from some of the organization's questions:

How much of a problem do you feel crime is in the Charlotte area?

75% rated it "serious" or "very serious"

In the past two years, has crime in Charlotte increased, stayed the same, or decreased?

42% said it is worse. Another 38% said it has remained the same.

Do you own a gun for protection?

31% said they owned a gun. Another 18 percent said they are considering buying one.

Which factors tend to increase the crime problem locally?

91% said gang and drug activity.

83% said the absence of a responsible parent or role model tends to increase crime activity among juveniles.

75% said lenient sentencing equals more crime.

50% said racial tensions were not likely to contribute to crime.

Not rated as significant factors were unemployment and poverty, and the lack of a police presence.

Have the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County done enough to deal with the crime problem?

79% said more needs to be done.

Are the courts too lenient or too tough?

78% said they are too lenient.

Do you plan to vote in the District Attorney race in November?

91% said they plan to vote in that contest.

What would help solve the crime problem?

96% said tougher sentencing.

88% said more programs for juveniles outside regular school hours.

85% said more mental health and substance abuse programs.

70% said only violent offenders should be incarcerated.

Unions To DNC 2012: Shun These Cities: Charlotte & Cleveland

A Union representing hotel workers has asked the Democratic National Committee to rule out two of its four convention-site finalists, Cleveland and Charlotte, N.C., because they lack sufficient unionized hotel facilities.

"Among the DNC's four finalist cities, only St. Louis and Minneapolis" have the capacity to "house a large portion of the delegates and other guests ... in unionized hotels," John Wilhelm, president of the international UNITE HERE union of hotel and textile workers, wrote in a letter to DNC Chairman Tim Kaine.

"Therefore, one of those two cities should be the DNC's choice for 2012. Unfortunately, Charlotte and Cleveland do not fit the bill, and they should be removed from the list."

Though the letter was dated Oct. 6, it wasn't publicized until this week, when the union's Minneapolis local, eager to enhance its city's chances, issued a press release on the subject.

"We're just very interested in having the convention here on a number of levels, and for the international it's a priority that it be in a union city," said Wade Luneberg, secretary-treasurer and political director of UNITE HERE Local 17 in Minneapolis. "We think it's important to differentiate between the four [finalist] cities and see that Minneapolis and St. Louis rise to the top."

Charlotte, N.C., has no unionized hotels, and its convention center's employees are not union members, according to Wilhelm's letter. Cleveland has some union hotels, but only a handful in the downtown area and about 10 in the larger region; they belong to a competing union, Workers United.

UNITE HERE under Wilhelm split with former President Bruce Raynor in a bitter and protracted battle that ended last year with Raynor leaving and founding Workers United.

Workers United, which has affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, says it has 150,000 members, while UNITE HERE, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, claims 265,000.

A subcommittee of the DNC visited potential convention sites over the summer to evaluate their logistical suitability and advise the committee on their findings. A decision is expected in late 2010 or early 2011.

Democratic sources familiar with the decision-making process say Charlotte and St. Louis are the current front-runners, with Charlotte at a slight disadvantage because of its small overall hotel room stock.

Political considerations — including last week's election results — are expected to play a major role in the decision-making process. The defeat of a Democratic governor in Ohio may have hurt Cleveland's chances, while Minneapolis could be helped if Minnesota's Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Mark Dayton, hangs on to win. He currently leads in the count in a race that is likely to go to a recount.

The Minneapolis area has at least 20 union hotels totaling 5,300 rooms, with more than 2,000 workers, Wilhelm's letter notes. St. Louis, the letter says, has 10 union hotels with more than 3,000 rooms. Both cities' sports arenas and convention centers are unionized as well.

"Employees at union hotels are far more likely than employees in non-union hotels to get the sort of basic fair treatment for which the Democratic Party stands — good wages, affordable health benefits, stable long-term positions, and respect and a voice on the job," Wilhelm wrote. "For these reasons, those employees are more likely to provide delegates and guests with better service as well."

UNITE HERE official Pilar Weiss said the DNC was receptive to the union's concerns. "It's early on," she said. "We're having a dialogue with them."

A spokesman for the DNC, Hari Sevugan, said, "As always, we are looking at a number of factors and will have an announcement in the coming months." Ranks Charlotte, N.C. 14th Most Dangerous City

(Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C. metropolitan statistical area)

Population: 1,635,133

Violent Crimes per 100,000: 721

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.

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Sources: CNN, CQ Press,, McClatchy Newspapers, MSNBC, Neighbors For A Safer Charlotte, Politico, WCNC, Youtube, Google Maps

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