published Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Gerber: Headlines on state's violent crime do not tell whole story

The headlines screamed from websites and the pages of newspapers last week: "FBI: Tennessee most dangerous US state." "TN has nation's highest violent crime rate." "The most dangerous U.S. state is ... Tennessee?"

Those were all real headlines, based on an FBI study that found that Tennessee has the highest per capita violent crime rate of the nation's 50 states. (Washington, D.C.'s was higher).

That means 643 people out of every 100,000 in Tennessee have been victims of violent crime, which includes murder, aggravated assault, forced rape and robbery.

Tennessee was in the top 10 for murders and was first for aggravated assaults.

Unsettling for sure.

People are interested in crime. We want to know why people act violently; we want to know if we're safe. Not surprisingly, the story on the FBI numbers racked up the page views at, and it was listed on the's list of its five most popular stories.

But here's the thing about statewide or nationwide stats: They don't really tell you if you're safe. They don't tell you how much crime occurs in your community.

"People in Tennessee were more likely to be victims of violent crime than residents of any other state in the nation, according to FBI statistics," a story posted on the Tennessean's website stated.

Statistically that might be true. But you're obviously a lot safer if you live in, say, Dunlap, than if you live in inner-city Memphis, which skews the state's crime numbers greatly. Memphis was fifth worst in the country for violent crime rates, according to the FBI.

So to really understand the numbers, you must examine them on a local level, not statewide. And you must try to compare apples to apples -- or big cities to other big cities and smaller cities to other smaller cities.

That's what Times Free Press reporter Louie Brogdon did last week. He crunched the FBI data, taking it down to the city level to compare Chattanooga to similar cities. He found:

• Chattanooga has the fourth-highest violent crime rate among cities in the state that have populations of more than 50,000. That rate is 993.9 per 100,000 people -- behind Memphis at 1,750, Jackson at 1,478 and Nashville at 1,216 per 100,000.

• Chattanooga is fourth-highest for violent crimes among the 31 mid-sized cities in the surrounding states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. (Brogdon identified mid-sized cities as having populations of 100,000 to 350,000; Chattanooga's population is 170,136). Ahead of Chattanooga in that category are St. Louis, Birmingham and Little Rock, Ark.

Headlines about violent crime are always going to grab attention. But it's our job to give you a well-researched story that goes beyond the face-value of the numbers. It's our goal -- and our mandate -- to not just report the numbers but dig behind them to provide more depth and more information about your community.

And don't worry if you didn't care for all the headlines about violent crime in your state. By the end of the week, another headline was popping up on websites: "Tennessee ranks 8th for fatal drug overdoses."

Alison Gerber is editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at

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nucanuck said...

Having a fuller set of statistics doesn't really alter the sad reality that seems unlikely to improve. Tennessee is truly a violent place where your chances of being caught up in that violence are higher than elsewhere.

October 13, 2013 at 2:16 a.m.
conservative said...

Although Ms. Gerber did a much better job than Ms. Sohn on the FBI stats about violence in Tennessee she failed as well in telling the “whole story” per her caption.

States, cities, places etc. do not shoot and murder, assault, rape and rob. PEOPLE shoot and murder, assault, rape and rob. Liberals, immoral people, flock to the large cities in every state. All large cities in America have higher crime rates.

Also, it is a fact that the Liberal black folks commit the largest portion of murders here in Tennessee and nationwide.

In 2009, there were 461 people murdered in Tennessee. Those murdered who were black were 241 which came to 53%! This was a 23.01 murder rate!

A government CDC site I found said that between 1999-2007 the homicide rate in America for whites was just 2.7 and for Hispanics 7.6. For blacks a much larger 23.1 rate.

Surely the lack of morals has much to do with all crime. Think 70% out of wedlock birthrate for the black folks nationwide, the lack of fathers in the home, the success of Liberals keeping the Bible out of our schools.

October 14, 2013 at 5:46 p.m.
nucanuck said...

con-man, how do you suggest society should deal with high rates of violence? Are you implying that blacks should be treated differently? What are you saying? You are in dangerous territory.

October 15, 2013 at 12:46 a.m.
conservative said...

Why am I in dangerous territory, I only stated and presented the facts and the sites, one of which was our government CDC site? The article used the government FBI site.

I marvel at your lack of understanding. Do you see violent crime only associated with a place apart from people?

Again, read this and see if you can come up with a reason why violent crime is associated with people and not places, especially with the black folks:

"Surely the lack of morals has much to do with all crime. Think 70% out of wedlock birthrate for the black folks nationwide, the lack of fathers in the home, the success of Liberals keeping the Bible out our schools."

I will give you this hint- the black and white folks who are Conservative are not the problem.

October 15, 2013 at 7:03 a.m.
nucanuck said...

You have made a sloppy argument that blacks lack morals and are therefore responsible for overall high crime rates. I call that dangerous territory.

October 15, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.
conservative said...

No, you either made that accusation up or you poorly reasoned your accusation.

I stated facts from three sites, two of which were from the federal government.

Try again.

October 15, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.
nucanuck said...

By your own deductive reasoning you painted yourself as a hateful racist.

October 15, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.
conservative said...

You can’t defend your argument or point so you resort to name calling, again.

Murder, rape, robbery and assault are immoral acts.

Let me repeat that.

Murder, rape, robbery and assault are immoral acts.

Do you agree or do you disagree?

October 15, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.
nucanuck said...

I only point out that which you have done by your own words. Others can decide what is name calling and what is truth calling.

October 15, 2013 at 8:23 p.m.
conservative said...

You want to dodge the issue of morals so you call me a hateful racist.

Again, do you agree or do you disagree that murder, rape, robbery and assault are immoral acts?

October 15, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.
nucanuck said...

I am addressing your apparent racism, not whether or not you have a credible moral foundation.

October 15, 2013 at 10:36 p.m.
conservative said...

No, you have just falsely accussed me of being a hateful racist because you cannot or will not admit that crimes are acts of immorality and geographical places have nothing to do with crime.

October 16, 2013 at 7:19 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

PC, white guilty, or just plain stubbornness, Nuck will simply refuse to go along with you despite the evidence. It starts in the home, and the breakdown of homes.

October 17, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.
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