10/30/2006

Annual ranking says St. Louis most dangerous city

[Related: A list of most, least dangerous cities]

By CHRISTOPHER LEONARD
Associated Press Writer

ST. LOUIS- Just days after the St. Louis Cardinals won the top honor in the Major League Baseball championships, their hometown jumped to first place on a list no one wants to lead: the most dangerous cities in the United States.

This Midwestern city has long been in the upper tiers of the annual ranking of America's safest and most dangerous cities, compiled by Morgan Quitno Press. Violent crime surged nearly 20 percent there this year, when the rate of such crimes rose much faster in the Midwest than in the rest of the nation, according to FBI figures released in June.

The ranking, being released Monday, came as the city was still celebrating Friday's World Series victory at the new Busch Stadium. St. Louis has been spending millions of dollars on urban renewal even as the crime rate climbs.

Mayor Francis Slay did not return calls to his office seeking comment Sunday.

Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press, a private research and publishing company specializing in state and city reference books, said he was not surprised to see St. Louis top the list, since it has been among the 10 most dangerous U.S. cities for years.

Morgan said the study looks at crime only within St. Louis city limits, with a population of about 330,000. It does not take into account the suburbs in St. Louis County, which has roughly 980,000 residents.

The safest city in 2005 was Brick, New Jersey, population about 78,000, followed by Amherst, New York, and Mission Viejo, California. The second most dangerous city was Detroit, followed by Flint, Michigan, and Compton, California.

The national FBI figures released in June showed the murder rate in St. Louis jumped 16 percent from 2004 to 2005, compared with 4.8 percent nationally. The overall violent crime rate increased nearly 20 percent, compared with 2.5 percent nationally.

While crime increased in all regions last year, the 5.7 percent rise in the 12 Midwestern states was at least three times higher than any other region, according to the FBI.

Visiting St. Louis on Thursday, FBI director Robert Mueller said it was too early to tell why some types of crime were rising faster in the Midwest.

Mueller said the FBI is working harder to form partnerships with police departments to launch programs like St. Louis' Safe Streets task force, which focuses police efforts on problematic neighborhoods.

This year's ranking was good news for Camden, New Jersey, which in 2005 was named the most dangerous city for the second year in a row.

Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison said Sunday she was thrilled to learn that her city no longer topped the most-dangerous list.

"You made my day!" said Faison, who has served since 2000. "There's a new hope and a new spirit."

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