Fairbanks questions its 'dangerous' label

Research firm says the city is fourth worst in crime rankings in U.S.

Posted: Friday, November 26, 2004

FAIRBANKS - City officials say they're doubtful about some of the measures used to rank Fairbanks as the nation's fourth most dangerous metropolitan area in a new report.

According to the survey by the private research firm Morgan Quitno Corp., Fairbanks is more dangerous than the Las Vegas, Miami and New Orleans metropolitan areas. Only the Detroit, Memphis, Tenn., and Sumpter, S.C., metropolitan areas fared worse.

Someone in the Fairbanks area is almost twice as likely to be slain than someone in Miami and eight surrounding cities, including Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, according to the report.

The survey is part of Morgan Quitno's "City Crime Rankings," an annual reference book that will be published next month. The rankings are based on the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, said company president Scott Morgan.

Fairbanks mayor Steve Thompson and police director Paul Harris said some of the statistics upon which the study was based are wrong.

"I believe that there's been some kind of mathematical error," Harris said. "I think our crime rates are high, but I don't think we're the fourth most dangerous metropolitan area in the nation."

The FBI statistics listed Fairbanks' population as 32,652, which is slightly more than the city's population and less than half the population of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Census figures for 2000 put the borough's population at just under 83,000.

The publishing company has posted a correction on its Web site saying an incorrect figure was used for the Fairbanks metropolitan area.

The area used by the FBI in measuring crime statistics for the Fairbanks metropolitan area was also unclear. The crime numbers are slightly higher than city's crime rates but too low for the whole borough.

The police director has contacted the FBI, asking for a correction in its data, he said.

"On the good side of it, if we were listed as No. 4 in the nation, we'd probably have a better chance to get more grants," Harris said. "But I'm not using phony numbers to get more grants."

Morgan Quitno Press has already published several thousand copies, and Morgan said it was too late to make changes to the book.

Morgan Quitno Press won't change the list on the Web, where most of its consumers get their information, unless the FBI changes its information, the company president said.

Harris and Thompson said companies thinking of relocating to Fairbanks might be turned off by the dubious ranking.

"This is not healthy for our economic outlook," Thompson said.

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