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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Murder

Posted By on Tue, Oct 31, 2006 at 4:22 PM

They must have been popping Champagne corks at Morgan Quitno Press Friday night when the Cardinals beat the Tigers to take the 2006 World Series four games to one. As you undoubtedly know by now, yesterday the Lawrence, Kansas-based "publishing and research company" issued a press release heralding publication of its annual City Crime Rankings tome. Topping the list of the U.S.'s "Most Dangerous Cities" was St. Louis, with Detroit coming in just behind.

"St. Louis, Missouri not only came out ahead of Detroit in the World Series, it also beat out Detroit to rank as the nation's most dangerous city," reads the company's press release. "St. Louis reported the highest violent crime and property crime rates among cities of 75,000 or more population."

The book, from whose cover gazes a stoic, undercover-cop-looking fella with his right hand poised at a holster on his hip -- ready to "draw down," as the kids like to say -- retails for a hefty $49.95.

The press release, not surprisingly, spawned a hundred or so stories in newspapers across the land.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, for instance, checked in with Philly neighbor Camden, New Jersey, which having taken top honors last year passed the baton to our town.

Wrote South Jersey bureau staffer Dwight Ott: "Acting Camden County Prosecutor Jim Lynch blasted Morgan Quitno for putting Camden at the top of the list for two years in a row.He mocked the firm with his own award.'I want to make the award for the most insensitive, outrageous and irresponsible journalists in America and the winner is Morgan Quitno,' Lynch said. They won by so much that no one else finished second or third.'

"Referring to the city that replaced Camden at the top of the list, he said, 'I feel bad for the city of St. Louis.'"

At the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, meanwhile, Jeremy Kohler got the assignment. Kohler included the obligatory quote from the mayor's office -- "'This thing is bogus,' grumbled Jeff Rainford, chief of staff to Mayor Francis Slay" -- then brought in an UMSL criminologist to enlarge on Rainford's criticism by pointing out that MQ penalizes cities that mostly comprise "urban core" (is that a synonym for "poor people"?). To his credit, Kohler got MQ president Scott Morgan to concede that if you crunch the numbers by metropolitan area rather than by city, the St. Louis area ranks 129th most dangerous out of 344 metro areas.

And we'll see you next year.

Except stories like Morgan Quitno take on a life all their own. Like with today's big regional story about the disturbed kid in Jerseyville, Illinois, who seems to have gone and gotten himself Tasered to death by police. Here's AP's take, for the world to see:

Teen Shot by Police Stun Gun Dies JERSEYVILLE Ill. A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said. In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him and he continued yelling, "I want Jesus."


The city of St. Louis also drew unwanted attention for crime this week when it was named the most dangerous U.S. city by Morgan Quitno Press. The ranking looked only at crime within St. Louis city limits, not its metro area.

-Tom Finkel


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