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Viewpoint: Dangerous city ranking is dumb

Liz Engel Clark
Friday, Oct 3, 2014

Downtown Crossville.

There have been a lot of negative rankings for the Upper Cumberland this 2013-14. Remember when the city of Cookeville was called out for being one of the poorest in the country? What about the other “study” that had it among the top 10 cities where “poverty is soaring?”

As watered down as those listings may have been, this most recent one, folks, takes the cake. Crossville and McMinnville – two of the region’s biggest retirement communities – were named the most dangerous cities in the state by home security company ADT. Crossville was No. 1! (McMinnville was 13th, by the way, out of 17. Why 17? Ha. Your guess is as good as mine.) ADT says it used the most recent FBI crime data for its list (from 2012) but whittled down the statistics to solely include violent AND property crimes. That gives Crossville a crime rate of 117 per 1,000 residents – meaning you have a 1 in 9 chance of being a victim of crime in the city, ADT says. Make no mind that the city had ZERO murders that same year and a mere 17 robberies. Clarksville, as a comparison, had 10 murders in 2012 and 99 robberies but isn’t listed. And Memphis – which was just named the second most dangerous city in the entire COUNTRY – came in behind Crossville, third on ADT’s list, even though its violent crime rate is 15 percent higher than the Cumberland County town.

Obviously, this is click bait at its worst. An easy way to drive web traffic, and ultimately, considering the source, ADT, which is in the business of selling home security, boosting sales. Similar lists have already been published for North Carolina, Michigan, Louisiana and others, even though the FBI actually warns against such straight-lined comparisons, saying, “They provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.”

Here’s a thought. Perhaps we should make a list of the worst ways to drum up business? ADT’s scare tactic gets my No. 1 spot.

But rather than wasting our time on the negative, how about a couple ratings that actually put our region in good light? Besides the fact that Ralph’s was named among the best donuts makers in the country (21st for its apple fritter, according to The Daily Meal), Cookeville is the eighth least expensive place to live. The region has always been known for its low cost of living, friendly residents and outdoor attractions. Let’s just keep it at that.


Liz Engel Clark is the editor of the upper Cumberland Business Journal. she can be reached at

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Michael Detwiler
Friday, Oct 3, 2014 at 4:27 PM
I agree 100%, bait at its worst...