In another blow to the Motor City's tarnished image, Detroit pushed past St. Louis, Missouri, to become the most dangerous US city, according to a private research group's controversial analysis of annual FBI crime statistics.
The study drew harsh criticism even before it came out on Sunday. The American Society of Criminology launched a pre-emptive strike on Friday, issuing a statement attacking it as "an irresponsible misuse" of crime data.
The 14th annual City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America was published by CQ Press, a unit of Congressional Quarterly, and is based on the FBI's Sept. 24 crime statistics report.
The study examined 378 cities with at least 75,000 people based on per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. Each crime category was considered separately and weighted based on its seriousness, CQ Press said.
Last year's crime leader, St. Louis, fell to No. 2. Another Michigan city, Flint, ranked third, followed by Oakland, California; Camden, New Jersey; Birmingham, Alabama; North Charleston, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; Richmond, California; and Cleveland, Ohio.
The study ranked Mission Viejo, California, as the safest US city, followed by Clarkstown, New York; Brick Township, New Jersey; Amherst, New York and Sugar Land, Texas.
The study assigns a crime score to each city, with zero representing the national average.
Detroit received a score of 407, while St. Louis followed at 406. The score for Mission Viejo, in Southern California's affluent Orange County, was minus 82.
Detroit was pegged the US' murder capital in the 1980s and has lost nearly 1 million people since 1950, according to the Census Bureau. Downtown sports stadiums and corporate headquarters -- along with the redevelopment of the riverfront of this city of 919,000 -- have slowed but not reversed the decline. Officials have said crime reports do not help.
Detroit police officials released a statement on Sunday disputing the report, saying it fails to put crime information into proper context.
"Every year this organization sends out a press release with big, bold lettering that labels a certain city as Most Dangerous, USA," Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said in the release.
"It really makes you wonder if the organization is truly concerned with evaluating crime or increasing their profit," said Bully-Cummings, who noted the complete report is available only by purchase. "With crime experts across the country routinely denouncing the findings, I believe the answer is clear."
The rankings "do groundless harm to many communities," said Michael Tonry, president of the American Society of Criminology.
"They also work against a key goal of our society, which is a better understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the public," Tonry said.
Critics also say the numbers do not tell the whole story because of differences among cities.
"You're not comparing apples and oranges; you're comparing watermelons and grapes," said Rob Casey, who heads the FBI section that puts out the Uniform Crime Report that provides the data for the Quitno report.
"These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region," the FBI said on its Web site. "Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents."