El Paso Times
December 9, 2011
by Kayley Kappes
Surprising few in El Paso, the Sun City had the lowest crime rate ranking of cities with populations greater than 500,000 people for the second consecutive year, according to CQ Press.
The publishing company, which released the rankings Thursday in its annual City Crime Rankings reference book, used six categories -- murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft -- to calculate the crime rate rankings of cities and metropolitan areas.
Data used in the rankings are based on 2010 crime statistics reported to the FBI.
In 2010, El Paso had only five homicides.
El Paso has ranked among the top three cities with populations larger than 500,000 with the lowest crime rates every year since 1997, according to the El Paso Police Department.
Local officials said they had expected the distinction.
"I'm very pleased, and I'm not at all surprised," Mayor John Cook said. "We were pretty sure we had a good opportunity to be number one again because those statistics were for 2010. That was the year we only had five murders."
Detective Mike Baranyay, a Police Department spokesman, said police officials had expected to earn the lowest crime rate ranking for consecutive years because crime rates were lower in 2010 than in 2009, another year El Paso earned the lowest crime rate ranking of similar-size cities by CQ Press.
"Honestly we expect to remain there," Baranyay said.
The distinction will help the city market itself to attract new businesses and shows consistency in having low crime levels from year to year, Cook said.
It also shows that El Paso is a safe place in contrast to its border sister city, Juárez, Cook said.
Since 2008, Juárez has been engulfed in a drug cartel war in which more than 9,000 people have been killed.
A statement on the company's website acknowledged that some law enforcement officials nationwide view the rankings as controversial.
A representative of CQ Press could not be reached Thursday.
"The FBI, police and many criminologists caution against rankings according to crime rates," the statement said. "They correctly point out that crime levels are affected by many different factors. É Accordingly, crime rankings often are deemed simplistic or incomplete. However, this criticism is largely based on the fact that there are reasons for the differences in crime rates, not that the rates are incompatible."
Annual rankings allow for comparisons among states and cities and enable leaders to track their local crime trends from year to year, according to CQ Press.
El Paso police officials have previously said it's hard to pinpoint why violent crimes have remained low in the city.
Baranyay attributed El Paso's low crime rates to the department's community policing approach, which it adopted in the early 1990s.
"Nationwide, and probably worldwide, El Paso is assumed to be dangerous because we border Juárez," Baranyay said. "The reality is crime is low here in El Paso. We think it sheds a positive light on the work of residents and local government, which team with state and federal agencies on a daily basis to fight crime."