It’s not a Top 10 list any city would want to be on.
Buffalo was named 2012’s 10th most dangerous city in America this past week by Forbes magazine.
The dangerous cities list – topped by Detroit, followed by St. Louis in second and Oakland in third – was compiled by comparing violent crime rates in cities of populations of more than over 200,000 in 2011, according to Forbes. Those figures come from preliminary data just released from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports database.
The data showed that Buffalo’s violent crime rate – which includes homicides, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault – was 1,239 per 100,000 residents last year.
Buffalo’s appearance on the Top 10 list is somewhat surprising, given that the number of violent crimes, particularly homicides, dropped dramatically in 2011.
There were 36 killings in the city in 2011, down from 55 in 2010. Overall, 3,250 violent crimes were reported in Buffalo, down from 3,599 the year before. There were 121 forcible rapes, 1,459 robberies and 1,634 aggravated assaults reported in 2011.
That Buffalo made the top 10 list while the number of reported crimes went down can be explained by the fact that the number of violent crimes nationally fell by 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the FBI’s new statistics.
“Buffalo is a safe city,” Buffalo Police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said Sunday, in response to Forbes’ calling the City of Good Neighbors “dangerous.”
“In 2011, the city reported the lowest number of homicides in a decade,” he said. “The city has spent a lot of resources and numerous initiatives on tracking down gangs and drugs.”
The Forbes article did highlight the city’s “intensified gang sweeps” for helping bring down the homicide rate. Buffalo authorities previously credited last year’s dip in homicide numbers to its involvement in the FBI-led Safe Streets Task Force, which brings together local, state and federal law enforcement to dismantle local violent gangs.
However, the number of killings is creeping back up. So far this year, there have been 40 deaths, though one was a man shot two years ago who finally succumbed to his injuries.
Anti-violence activists across the city reacted with sadness to the city’s ranking in the magazine.
“Wow,” said Murray Holman, executive director of the Stop the Violence Coalition, when he learned Buffalo was No. 10 on the list.
Holman was reached Sunday as he was driving near Goodyear Avenue, the scene of a recent homicide where he had just held a candlelight vigil Friday night.
He noted that there had been another homicide at the same address in the 500 block of Goodyear two years earlier.
Holman described seeing young men on Goodyear who appeared to be up to no good as he passed.
“There are people there sitting and selling drugs,” he said. “That’s what we’re dealing with here.”
Holman believes reaching out to youth before they’ve had a chance to turn to a life of crime is critical in stopping the cycle of violence.
“If we curb the violence, we can give these children alternatives,” he said.
Bob Kuebler, director of Youth with a Purpose, believes the solution is not in increasing the police presence or in putting more people in jail.
“We need to start a mentoring force that goes throughout the city,” said Kuebler, who works with young people on the Lower West Side.
“Gangs come about because kids are inactive,” he said. “They fail in school. They feel dumb. In gangs, they feel accepted, and they make money. It becomes a way of life. Because of the adults’ lack of compassion, our children now lack empathy.”
Dwayne Ferguson, president and CEO of Mad Dads of Greater Buffalo, believes it’s up to men, particularly in impoverished communities, to step up and be good examples for youth.
He said that while Buffalo’s ranking is a sad reminder of the violence that takes place every day in the city, he has seen signs of hope. More and more, he sees young men with their babies, playing active roles in their children’s lives.
“I still have hope for Buffalo, that we can do a lot of change,” Ferguson said.
Detroit leads the list
Crime data pulled from FBI database: City Population Violent crime rate
1. Detroit 713,239 2,137 per 100,000 residents
2. St. Louis 320,454 1,857 per 100,000
3. Oakland, Calif. 395,317 1,683 per 100,000
4. Memphis, Tenn. 652,725 1,583 per 100,000
5. Birmingham, Ala. 213,258 1,483 per 100,000
6. Atlanta 425,433 1,433 per 100,000
7. Baltimore 626,848 1,417 per 100,000
8. Stockton, Calif. 295,136 1,408 per 100,000
9. Cleveland 397,106 1,363 per 100,000
10. Buffalo 262,484 1,238 per 100,000