Mayor disputes Atlanta's ranking as 2nd least-safe city in U.S.

Mayor Shirley Franklin disputes a political blog's ranking of Atlanta as the nation's second most dangerous municipality, reiterating her claim that the city is "safer now than it has been in decades."

"The blog's rankings are based on incorrect data; they are contrary to the findings of reputable authorities on crime data; and they ignore Atlanta's 7-year track record of crime reduction," Franklin said Monday in a press release.

The ranking, compiled by the Web site Real Clear Politics, was derived by dividing the total crimes detailed in the FBI's 2008 Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report by city population. Real Clear Politics' editors could not be reached for comment Monday.

The FBI stats, released last week, have presented a mixed bag for Atlanta. The positive: Violent crime decreased 8.3 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, with 672 fewer such incidents.

Property crimes, however, rose 7.6 percent in Atlanta; nationwide, a 1.6 percent decrease was reported — the first time property crime fell since 2003. Burglaries and larcenies were both on the rise locally, the FBI said.

But Franklin said citizens should focus on "dramatic improvement" in Atlanta's crime rate over the past seven years.

"In that time the city's crime rate has dropped from 11.2 percent to 8.7 percent, which is nearly a 25 percent improvement," the mayor said. "Perhaps more importantly, our rate of violent crime is down nearly 40 percent over this period."

While there's some uncertainty over Real Clear Politics' metrics, the FBI stats reveal that only Memphis had more crimes per person among U.S. cities with more than 500,000 residents.

"Franklin and [Atlanta Chief of Police Richard] Pennington have been trying to get us to drink the Kool-Aid for 12 months now," said Randall Cobb, safety chairman for the Midtown Neighborhood Association. "The biggest thing they're doing is refusing to take responsibility for crime in this city."

Franklin cited other studies, including Congressional Quarterly Press' crime rankings — which ranked Atlanta 16th overall in crime rate among U.S. cities — and Forbes magazine's list of the 15 most dangerous cities in America — "Atlanta was not on it," she said.

So far this year, Franklin said, figures compiled by COBRA (Command Operation Briefing to Revitalize Atlanta) indicate the overall crime is down 10 percent.

Those numbers don't seem to register when it comes to public confidence.

"The problem is we've been getting the wrong information (from City Hall and the Atlanta Police Department) for years," Cobb said. "There isn't anyone I talk to who thinks we live in a safe city."

After Memphis and Atlanta, Real Clear Politics ranked San Antonio, Detroit and Milwaukee as America's least safe cities.

The safest? New York City, followed by San Jose, Calif., Los Angeles, San Diego, El Paso, Texas, Honolulu, Denver, Boston, Las Vegas and Louisville, Ky.

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