ABC has compiled data which it says accurately ranks Phoenix Metro cities according to which cities have the greatest (or fewest) violent crimes per 1,000 residents. The results are interesting, although in some cases not surprising.
In addition, we’ve looked at that data, and we have some questions of our own. The first involves the differences that may affect a city’s place in the rankings. The second involves the accuracy of the reports themselves. Here is what we mean, starting with the rankings themselves, from “safest” to “most dangerous.” The number represents the violent crimes per 1,000 residents:
- Buckeye – 0.5421061599
- Paradise Valley – 0.6358177323
- Gilbert – 0.7815583492
- Scottsdale – 1.531851298
- Maricopa – 1.954581176
- Peoria – 2.002322694
- Chandler – 2.098359669
- Apache Junction – 2.778787721
- Avondale – 2.855217205
- Goodyear – 3.779658124
- Mesa – 4.288309912
- Glendale – 4.955997003
- Tempe – 5.048865405
- Casa Grande – 5.46206366
- Phoenix – 6.743934083
Now the implications of these numbers include, if they are both accurate and meaningful, that you are perhaps three times as likely to get murdered, mugged or robbed (or subject to a similar violent crime) in Scottsdale as you are in Buckeye. We don’t think so, at least we don’t think the numbers support the conclusion. These are our reasons:
a. Towns and cities have a vested interest in demonstrating that street crime is less common than it may actually be. Their desire finds its way into statistics in different ways. You may, for example, be less likely to be arrested for the same conduct (aggravated assault in a domestic violence case) in Paradise Valley, say, than you are in Tempe or Phoenix. And it is arrests, and not convictions, that count. In other words, the analysis does not measure crime itself; rather, it measures arrests.
b. Some towns and cities alter the statistics by failing to report crimes accurately. They do this in a couple of ways. First, they reclassify some crimes to move them out of the violent crime arena (reclassifying a crime from aggravated assault to simple assault will cause an arrest to be moved out of the violent crime category under the FBI definition). Second, some police departments simply fail to file the required reports with the FBI. In either event, affects the accuracy of the results.
c. Finally, a number of cities are suing the Pentagon for failing to report crime data to the FBI, including data used in gun purchase background checks. Again, the lack of date directly affects the accuracy of the numbers.
We don’t scoff at statistics as a general matter. On the other hand, we should be mindful that compilations that ignore essential aspects of any analysis should not automatically be taken as true.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004