Local Analysis Demystifies National Crime Data Report

Author: Jake Cowan and Tom Kingsley
Date Posted: August 29, 2011

In November 2005, for the second consecutive year, Camden, NJ was named the Most Dangerous City in the United States by the Morgan-Quitno Press. These national rankings were based on 2004 Uniform Crime (UCR) data. CAMConnect conducted their own analysis of the 2004 UCR data so that they could anticipate the Morgan-Quitno Press rankings, and provide a response that would lessen the negative impact of the national ranking. This national ranking brings negative press to cities ranked among the most dangerous, potentially impacting their local economies through loss of business investment and tourism.

CAMConnect included their response in a handout with more detail about Morgan-Quitno’s methodology. The handout showed Camden’s crime rates, adjusted for population, for each of the six categories of crime used by Morgan-Quitno to calculate their rankings. A graph from the handout based on data from the Camden County Prosecutor showed a decrease in crime for 2005 (see Exhibit 3). With this decrease, Camden was ranked the 5th Most Dangerous City when the next rankings were released in October 2006.

CAMConnect published the 2005 analysis in a commentary piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer and posted it on their website, where it remains a top search result for queries related to the most dangerous city rankings. CAMConnect’s analysis was used by local business and nonprofit leaders to better understand the reasons Camden moved atop the rankings, and show that in spite of the ranking there was hope for improvement looking forward.

Exhibit 3: CAMConnect Chart showing a decrease in crime for 2005.

This story was initially published in Stories: Using Information in Community Building and Local Policy in June 2007.

This story was written by staff at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with Derek Ziegler of CAMConnect. CAMConnect was the Camden partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network coordinated by the Urban Institute, at the time of the story. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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