updated 10/31/2006 9:34:51 AM ET 2006-10-31T14:34:51

Mayor Francis Slay said a research company is dead wrong to call St. Louis the most dangerous city in the United States.

“It’s bogus,” Slay said of Morgan Quitno Press’s annual ranking, which was released Monday. “To suggest that St. Louis is more dangerous than Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Chicago — it just doesn’t make any sense.”

St. Louis placed at the top of the most dangerous list after murders in the city jumped nearly 20 percent between 2004 and 2005, according to Morgan Quitno Press, a private research and publishing company specializing in state and city reference books.

Slay said the group used population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau that were too low, exaggerating the crime statistics. The city previously challenged the Census Bureau’s figures, getting the population estimate bumped up from roughly 330,000 people to 353,000 people.

Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno, said he used a population estimate of 346,000 derived from an FBI report. Changing the figure to 353,000 doesn’t change St. Louis’s ranking, Morgan said.

Suburbs excluded
Slay noted that the ranking only looks at crime within St. Louis city limits. More than 1 million people live in suburbs outside the city and including them in the study would greatly dilute the overall crime rate, Slay said.

Morgan agreed, but said St. Louis still beat out several cities like Philadelphia and Detroit that have a similar population divide. He said cities like New York City benefit in the rankings because they include higher-income and lower-crime areas like Staten Island.

“St. Louis is not unique in being a core city surrounded by affluent areas” in different jurisdictions, he said.

Slay acknowledged there are high-crime neighborhoods inside the city that push up the rate of murders and robberies. He said city voters passed an increase in business license fees this year that will raise more than $3 million annually for law enforcement programs.

The city is in the process of hiring and training 40 new police officers and started a program in the prosecutor’s office to crack down on career criminals.

Slay said new lofts, restaurants and offices being built downtown show the city is safer than the study concluded.

“People are coming to the city, they like the city. They feel safe here,” Slay said.

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