San Diego’s homicide rate typically ranks below most major U.S. cities, and it’s a statistic that city and police officials frequently cite.

But here’s another take.

Each year, a group of Georgia State University researchers create an adjusted ranking of cities that accounts for crime-related factors like poverty, unemployment and racial demographics. They say including the additional data produces a more meaningful, contextual comparison of city homicide levels.

The latest adjusted rankings, looking at homicides in 2008 and the first half of 2009, are now available online. In 2008, San Diego ranked 56th using the FBI’s traditional statistics and 40th using the Georgia State analysis. In the first half of 2009, the city ranked 49th and 32nd respectively.

Researchers say a shift in the ranking can help people understand whether homicide levels are higher or lower than they should be given a city’s conditions. Robert Friedmann, one of the researchers, offered this explanation in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Some cities, like Detroit, rank near the top of the list before adjusting the data for differences in crime-producing factors. After adjustment, Detroit’s rank dropped dramatically. This means that Detroit’s homicide rate in 2008 was quite a bit lower than would be expected based on its dire socioeconomic circumstances.

Other cities, such as Albuquerque, N.M.; Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, rose in rank after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, meaning that their homicide rates were higher than expected based on their relatively benign conditions.

By this reasoning, the adjusted rankings suggest San Diego’s homicide rate was slightly higher than expected based on its living conditions.

What do you think? Are crime levels lower or higher than you would expect for San Diego?


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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