By CHRISTOPHER LEONARD
The Associated Press
Monday, October 30, 2006; 4:53 AM
ST. LOUIS -- A surge in violence made St. Louis the most dangerous city in the country, leading a trend of violent crimes rising much faster in the Midwest than in the rest of nation, according to an annual list.
The city has long fared poorly in the rankings of the safest and most dangerous American cities compiled by Morgan Quitno Press. Violent crime surged nearly 20 percent in St. Louis from 2004 to last year, when the rate of such crimes rose most dramatically in the Midwest, according to FBI figures released in June.
"It's just sad the way this city is," resident Sam Dawson said. "On the news you hear killings, someone's been shot."
The ranking, being released Monday, came as the city was still celebrating Friday's World Series victory at the new Busch Stadium. St. Louis has been spending millions of dollars on urban renewal even as the crime rate climbs.
Mayor Francis Slay did not return calls to his office seeking comment Sunday.
Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press, a private research and publishing company specializing in state and city reference books, said he was not surprised to see St. Louis top the list, since it has been among the 10 most dangerous cities for years.
The study looks at crime only within St. Louis city limits, with a population of about 330,000, Morgan said. It doesn't take into account the suburbs in St. Louis County, which has roughly 980,000 residents.
Visiting St. Louis on Thursday, FBI director Robert Mueller said it was too early to tell why some types of crime were rising faster in the Midwest.
Mueller said the FBI is working harder to form partnerships with police departments to launch programs like St. Louis' Safe Streets task force, which focuses police efforts on problematic neighborhoods.
The safest city in 2005 was Brick, N.J., with a population about 78,000, followed by Amherst, N.Y., and Mission Viejo, Calif. The second most dangerous city was Detroit, followed by Flint, Mich., and Compton, Calif.
The bad news for St. Louis was good for Camden, N.J., which in 2005 was named the most dangerous city for the second year in a row.
Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison said Sunday she was thrilled to learn that her city no longer topped the most-dangerous list.
"You made my day!" said Faison, who has served since 2000. "There's a new hope and a new spirit."
Cities are ranked based on more than just their crime rate, Morgan said. Individual crimes such as rape or burglary are measured separately, compared to national averages and then compiled to give a city its ranking. Crimes are weighted based on their level of danger.
The national FBI figures released in June showed the murder rate in St. Louis jumped 16 percent from 2004 to 2005, compared with 4.8 percent nationally. The overall violent crime rate increased nearly 20 percent, compared with 2.5 percent nationally.
While crime increased in all regions last year, the 5.7 percent rise in the 12 Midwestern states was at least three times higher than any other region, according to the FBI.
Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report.
On the Net:
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay: http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/mayor
Morgan Quitno Press: http://www.morganquitno.com