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America's Best and Worst Cities for Crime

Methodology and Data Sources

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program Crime Index was used as the basis for this study. This index consists of the combined rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft per 100,000 population. 331 United States Metropolitan Statistical Areas were considered in this study.

Crime Rate

A municipality´s crime rate is defined as the number of crimes per unit of population. Most crime reports, including those on BestPlaces.net, use the rate of crimes per 100,000 population. Examples: 50 crimes for a population of 50,000 equals a crime rate of 100; 100 crimes for a population of 125,000 equals a crime rate of 80.

Crime Categories

The crime categories in this study are defined as follows:

Violent Crime Rate
Violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. All violent crimes involve force or threat of force.

Property Crime Rate
Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.

Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, as defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, is the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. The classification of this offense, as for all other Crime Index offenses, is based solely on police investigation as opposed to the determination of a court, medical examiner, coroner, jury, or other judicial body. Not included in the count for this offense classification are deaths caused by negligence, suicide, or accident; justifiable homicides; and attempts to murder or assaults to murder, which are scored as aggravated assaults.

Forcible Rape
Forcible rape, as defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, is the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Assaults or attempts to commit rape by force or threat of force are also included; however, statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses are excluded.

Robbery is the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.

Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault is an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault is usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Attempts are included since it is not necessary that an injury result when a gun, knife, or other weapon is used which could and probably would result in serious personal injury if the crime were successfully completed.

The Uniform Crime Reporting Program defines burglary as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. The use of force to gain entry is not required to classify an offense as burglary. Burglary in this Program is categorized into three subclassifications: forcible entry, unlawful entry where no force is used, and attempted forcible entry.

Larceny-theft is the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another. It includes crimes such as shoplifting, pocket-picking, purse-snatching, thefts from motor vehicles, thefts of motor vehicle parts and accessories, bicycle thefts, etc., in which no use of force, violence, or fraud occurs. In the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, this crime category does not include embezzlement, confidence games, forgery, and worthless checks. Motor vehicle theft is also excluded from this category inasmuch as it is a separate Crime Index offense.

Motor Vehicle Theft
Defined as the theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle, this offense category includes the stealing of automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, motorscooters, snowmobiles, etc. The definition excludes the taking of a motor vehicle for temporary use by those persons having lawful access.

Data Sources

The data was taken from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program report for 2002. Click here to view the Uniform Crime Reports section on the FBI web site.

In some cases, cities did not report crime statistics to the FBI in 2002, or their record-keeping standards did not meet the requirements of the FBI crime reporting program. In those cases, we estimated 2002 crime rates based our analysis on previous years' local statistics and current year's city, state and county data, or data directly available from state or county police agencies.

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