Black Cities Ranked Most Dangerous; Leaders Challenge Labels

Growing up, what was your ideal place to live? Well, according to Morgan Quinto Press, a Lawrence, Kansas based research and publishing company, it is not near cities where blacks are the majority. 

This year Camden, N.J. was named the most dangerous city making 2004 the ninth consecutive year a city occupied by blacks has been ranked as the most dangerous.

According to the study five other predominantly black cities followed Camden; Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis, Gary, Indiana, and Washington, D.C., where nearly 45,000 or 56 percent, of the city’s 80,000 residents are black.

The rankings were determined by an individual city’s rate in six crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. All cities with a population of 75,000 or higher that reported crime to the FBI for the six categories were included in the rankings. In this year’s survey, 354 cities were observed. Final 2003 statistics were used to determine the rankings.

Professor John Davis, former Public Defender for Maryland and current professor of Communications and Culture at Howard University says that the criminal system focuses on certain behavior. He further explains that the justice system focuses on smaller crimes such as drug use, robbery, assault, ‘petty street crimes.’ Davis suggests that racial profiling makes it appear that these crimes happen most often in black neighborhoods, because that’s where blacks are most dominant. 

“We victimize each other with violence,” Davis said. “One big criticism of these social scientists is that correlation does not mean causation. They need to use a more scientific approach rather numbers,” Davis said.

Camden is considered an economically dejected area. The unemployment rate is 36 percent, and one of every three residents is poor.

“You have to believe that race has something to do with these rankings—the black people have been stereotyped,” said Camden Councilwoman C. Louise Dobbs, who lives in Whitman Park, which is saturated with crime, drugs, and violence. Dobbs claims that the younger generation has a lot of misplaced anger, and commits a lot of crime compared to their predecessors.

Sydney Singleton a senior accounting major at Howard University, from Queens New York, says that the police presence is greater in the black community, and as a result crime is reported more often in those areas.

“If a white boy is driving with drugs in his car, and a black guy does the same thing, but the black guy gets pulled over, and the white boy doesn’t, did the white boy have drugs on him?”  asked Singleton.  “It’s an issue of racial profiling,” said Singleton.

“I think it’s pretty unjust,” said the Rev. Floyd L. White III, pastor of Camden’s Woodland Avenue Presbyterian Church, who is one of the leaders trying to revive the city’s condition, and reputation. “I really don’t think it’s the clearest testament of what’s going on here.”

“There are a lot of good things going on in Camden, but people don’t seem to want to report those things nationally. Right now, there are a lot of us trying to work with the schools to improve things for kids, so that they have constructive things to do. We’re trying to create safe havens through our churches.”