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Dangerous American Neighborhoods: Chief Sam Dotson Slams Study With St. Louis in Top Spots

Categories: Crime

police-car-image.jpg
via Facebook
This week, a site called NeighborhoodScout.com released its list of "Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America" with St. Louis claiming two of the spots. Similarly to when other national crime rankings have put St. Louis at the top, local politicians and law enforcement officials are criticizing the report, saying the findings are based on poor methodology and provide an inaccurate picture of local crime.

"They don't reflect the reality that we know in the city of St. Louis and the region," St. Louis Metro Police Chief Sam Dotson tells Daily RFT. "It's frustrating, and it's disappointing."

The data is based on Federal Bureau of Investigation crime stats from 17,000 local law enforcement agencies across the country.

What neighborhoods made the cut?

See also:
- Map Confirms Murder Concentration; City Urges a Look on the Bright Side
- Back On Top: St. Louis Named Most Dangerous City in 2010
- St. Louis Is the Third-Most Dangerous City

The report, released on Monday, puts what is roughly the Columbus Square neighborhood (just north of downtown) in the No. 22 spot and the Fountain Park area in the No. 12 spot.

Here are maps of the exact boundaries of the defined areas in the study.

Cass Ave / N 9th St:

columbus-square-crime.jpg
via neighborhoodscout.com

Delmar Blvd / N Euclid Ave:

fountain-park-crime.jpg
via neighborhoodscout.com

The ranking is based on standardized FBI data on violent crime rates; the stats come from 2011, which is the most recent data that the FBI classifies as "final." The site uses U.S. Census Bureau data for neighborhood definitions and population counts and compares per capita ranks for the final list.

Andrew Schiller, founder of NeighborhoodScout, tells Daily RFT that the findings overall show that high crime rates in cities can often be traced back to neighborhoods with a high concentration of this activity.

"The total crimes that occur in a city, especially violent crimes, disproportionately are coming from a handful of neighborhoods," he says, adding that there are often larger social challenges contributing to these localized trends. "Law enforcement is oftentimes fighting the problem at the very tail end once there's already been a societal breakdown."

Dotson, however, says that the federal data the report uses is not meant for these kinds of comparisons. (The FBI discourages the use of this data in ranking law-enforcement agencies and comparing effectiveness in crime-reduction efforts.)

"They are sensationalizing," he says. "Like any urban core, we have challenges.... We address those. I don't see anything that gives me the pause that NeighborhoodScout is trying to create."

chief-sam-dotson-oath.jpg
via Facebook
Chief Sam Dotson taking oath of office earlier this year.

Critics argue that this kind of ranking is flawed because there is no reference to the size of neighborhoods it is comparing and how that can skew the numbers.

The local blog nextSTL has published a post criticizing the report and one news station's uncritical coverage of it.

The post argues that these oversimplified numbers are little more than click bait -- and that it's irresponsible to take a total number and divide it by the number of residents and state "My Chances of Becoming a Victim Here."

Continue for more of our interview with Sam Dotson and response from the mayor's office.



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18 comments
Tscott314
Tscott314

I talked to Alderman Antonio French about this. He doesn't even think the Fountain Park neighborhood is the most dangerous in STL. If the FBI says don't use their stats for studies like this then how much weight can you put in this?

http://youtu.be/1JmwAmV_Tbs

Rande Hackmann
Rande Hackmann

Yes it is. Had more things happen in the "safe" suburbs than the city.

Keith Stephens
Keith Stephens

Barry Dean, as the study shows. It singles out 2 neighborhoods. RFT didn't put that in their headline, intentionally.

Paul Mealus
Paul Mealus

You're generalizing the study RFT. It didn't say STL as a whole has a bad crime rate. It's calling out two terrible neighborhoods within the city 9th/Cass and Delmar/N. Euclid. Such places should be bulldozed. On the bright side many neighborhoods have improved over the last few years such as Fox Park, Cherokee, Old North.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

longer and ENFORCED sentences for criminals is the only thing that will make this city safer.

naffziger
naffziger

Great article; one thing: Chief Dotson is on the right up above.

Tony Merklin
Tony Merklin

Not as bad as Detroit. Not as bad as Chicago........

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

I live here & do not feel safe, now South St. Louis is dangerous to...really sad...Wish it was safe to live & enjoy this city

Robert A. West
Robert A. West

Whether or not the city is getting safer and whether or not St. Louis has one of the worst crime rates in the country are two completely different questions.

Kurt Boemler
Kurt Boemler

it has everything to do with how the different cities submit data to the Unified Crime Report. If the STL city was combined with the metro/county area (like most other cities do), the stats would be much better.

Barry Bean
Barry Bean

Depends on which neighborhood you're in.

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