Here we go again. There's yet another survey out that puts Hartford, along with New Haven and Bridgeport, on the list of the country's 25 most dangerous cities. And like so many other comparative surveys of crime or poverty, this one is so flawed as to be nearly useless.
The survey, from businessinsider.com, compares cities' rates of murder, (rape and robbery per 100,000 people. The data comes from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2012, and includes all cities with more than 100,000 residents.
Using this methodology, Hartford is the 24th most dangerous city, New Haven is 20th and Bridgeport is No. 4. Is that really accurate? Almost assuredly not. The comparison is not apples to apples; it is more like grapes to watermelons.
To the credit of the authors, they consulted experts on the survey's limitations. The problem with it, said UCLA professor Mark Kleiman, "is that some cities have broader boundaries and include safer suburban areas in their crime reports. The center of the city might be crime-ridden, but the safer outskirts skew the overall picture."
Compare a tiny Connecticut city with cities to the South or West that are geographically much larger — those that include their West Hartfords, Glastonburys, Windsors, Wethersfields, etc., within their boundaries. The result is distorted.
For example, compare Hartford to Jacksonville, Fla. In 2012, according to the FBI data, Hartford had 1,655 violent crimes, including 23 murders, 27 rapes and 640 robberies. Jacksonville had 5,182 violent crimes, including 93 murders, 350 rapes and 1,578 robberies.
So, you might ask, why is Hartford on the "most dangerous" list and Jacksonville not? Jacksonville merged with its surrounding county 45 years ago, and has a population of 841,000 on 747 square miles. Hartford has 125,000 people on 18 square miles. So per 100,000 people, Hartford has more crime. But overall, Jacksonville has more crime. Which is more dangerous? If it is hard to say, then what was the point of the survey?
Which is not to say there isn't a serious crime problem in the three Connecticut cities. Perhaps the most useful part of the businessinsider.com post is the assertion that income inequality tends to drive up crimes rates. Income inequality is a major issue here. If we are to take something useful from this survey, it might be the need to attack urban poverty.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun