Crime Statistics Can Mislead

Article excerpt

A recent Post-Dispatch analysis of combined crime statistics for 1993 and 1994 showed readers that their communities and streets are a lot safer than many might think.

Though an earlier Post-Dispatch poll had shown that apprehension about crime was common among area residents, the newspaper's analysis of the FBI statistics proved that public perception didn't necessarily match reality.

The analysis showed, for instance, that the crime rate in St. Louis dipped 4.5 percent last year and that the declines in auto theft and burglary were even larger. But even this welcome news doesn't clear up the distorted public perception about crime. That perception stems partly from aggregate FBI statistics, along with the occasional shameful criminal act that can make people feel no place is safe. If you lived in Sioux Falls, say, and knew St. Louis only from what you read in FBI crime reports, you'd logically have a bad impression of even some of this area's safer communities. You'd probably assume, for example, that Richmond Heights and St. Ann are both relatively unsafe communities because of what the FBI reports say. They list these two relatively prosperous municipalities as leading St. Louis County in the number of property crimes per 1,000 residents. In fact, Richmond Heights and St. Ann happen to rank high because they are homes to shopping malls, the St. …

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