Monday, November 21, 2005

CNN today is reporting the 10 most dangerous cities in America and the 10 least. I'm giving them some benefit of the doubt for now by not putting the word reporting in scare quotes. Here are the lists:

10 Most Dangerous

  1. Camden, NJ
  2. Detroit, MI
  3. St. Louis, MO
  4. Flint, MI
  5. Richmond, VA
  6. Baltimore, MD
  7. Atlanta, GA
  8. New Orleans, LA
  9. Gary, IN
  10. Birmingham, AL
10 Least Dangerous
  1. Newton, MA
  2. Clarkstown, MY
  3. Amherst, NY
  4. Mission Viejo, CA
  5. Brick Township, NJ
  6. Troy, MI
  7. Thousand Oaks, CA
  8. Round Rock, TX
  9. Lake Forest, CA
  10. Cary, NC
The story goes on to discuss Camden's efforts in particular to fight crime while missing entirely the real story here: America's 10 "most dangerous" cities are cities, while its 10 least dangerous are not. Wow, shocking finding here: traditional center cities that have been abandoned by the middle class, business, and state and local governments breed crime, while exurban edge cities (not even, in many cases, suburban) that externalize their problems while beefing up public and private security forces are safe for those who afford to live there.

Apparently safety doesn't imply any degree of livability. To give you an example of how little "there there" there is in those places, this map shows that I have driven through #9 Lake Forest many times without ever realizing that the place existed. I have to admit some fondness for Clarkstown, where an aunt of mine has lived my whole life--her house cannot be seen from any neighbor's and vice versa, it doesn't seem to be atypical, and even the municipal website refers to it as a "Town" and not a city. Its biggest attraction, wait for it, wait for a gigantic mall.

All in all, I'd rather be in Camden.

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