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Parsing CNN's Unflattering Philadelphia News

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We didn't see the show this morning, but we hear that Soledad O'Brien did a segment on CNN's Starting Point about Philadelphia's homicide rate. Our source tells us a roundtable was depressed about Philly and compared the city to Afghanistan. Needless to say, this doesn't exactly draw tourists in droves, and it benefits from some context.

The attention from O'Brien is likely due, in part, to the most recent release of FBI crime stats, the kind of time-sensitive data dump that's tailor-made for cable news. The FBI, however, cautions the media against making casual use of the results.

From the FBI's website:

Each year when Crime in the United States is published, many entities—news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our nation—use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents. While it's true that according to data reported by individual city departments for the year 2011, Philadelphia did have the highest number of homicides per 100,000 people, the FBI data provides a different take. Surely, tourists and residents alike are not just interested in homicide, but in violent crime generally.

The FBI stats show that among cities of more than 100,000 people, Camden, NJ, had the highest rate of violent crime, with Flint, Mich., coming in at No. 2. In fact, in that category, Philadelphia comes in at No. 18. Even when compared to other cities with populations above 200,000, Philly doesn't make the top 10—a list populated by Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore and other usual suspects.

Talking about 2012, as of last month, Philly did not have the country's highest homicide rate. In fact, homicide is down in our city by 16 percent as of today. Let's hope the trend continues.