Springfield rated nation’s 35th most dangerous city

By Nancy Pierce

Western Massachusetts’ largest city is among the nation’s most dangerous, according to 2010’s CQ Press rankings. Springfield, about 25 miles south of Amherst, was ranked the 35th most dangerous city in the United States this year.

St. Louis, Mo., Camden, N.J., and Detroit, Mich. were rated the most dangerous by the report. Springfield was placed not far behind Newark, N.J. and New Haven, Conn.

The annual report includes all cities of at least 75,000 residents that reported crime to the FBI. The most recent report measured 347 metropolitan areas and 400 cities using statistics released by the Uniform Crime Report program of the FBI in September 2010. The report analyzes six categories to make its assessments, including the number murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts.

The CQ Press is a division of SAGE, an independent academic and professional publisher of books, directories, reference publications, and textbooks focusing on US government, world affairs, communication, political science, and business.

Some critics of the report’s methodology claim it lumps together disparate statistics to create its rankings. Such critics include the United States Conference of Mayors, which stated in response to the findings that the list is inaccurate and damaging to the cities involved.

Kathleen Brown, the Springfield community police liaison since 1996, said Springfield had seen a 5 percent increase in crime rates last year. Springfield had a one percent increase in rape, 21 percent increase in burglaries, seven percent increase in motor vehicle related crimes and six percent increase in felony assault, but the city was down 10 percent in murders and two percent in robberies.

Brown said Springfield Police do their best to patrol the city and keep residents safe.

“We try to provide the best services and collaboration in the community to prevent harm.”

Brown attributed hard-working officers, participation from the community and positive municipal outlets for involvement as the most effective means for lowering crime rates and keeping Springfield safe. Brown also mentioned various technological aids which help in detecting crime in Springfield such as the “shot spotter” program, which notifies officers when a gunshot is fired and is able to alert dispatchers where to send officers. Brown also referred to annual citywide community meetings, which provide citizens with prevention tips, crime analysis information, and gang presentations.

“It is an interesting city, in that it is in the crossroads between New York City and Boston, and Virginia, Vermont, and New Hampshire,” said Brown of traffic that comes through Springfield from such places, which she said contributes to crime in the city.    

Kelli Gralia, a sophomore business major at the University of Massachusetts, lives in the suburbs, near East Longmeadow. Gralia went to the private school Cathedral High School, which is in the city, but outside downtown.

On living in Springfield, she was less than enthusiastic.

“I don’t really like living in Springfield,” she said. “I went to private school my whole life, so I didn’t go downtown for anything.”

Referring to the downtown part of the city, she said, “Once you get past a certain point in Springfield, it’s known to be dangerous.”

Stephanie Flynn, a sophomore communications major at UMass, also calls Springfield her hometown, residing in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. Flynn, who attended a public high school in Springfield, doesn’t consider Springfield necessarily dangerous, as she’s lived there her whole life and knows what parts she feels it is best to stay away from.

Flynn lauded  the city’s Text-a-Tip policy, a program through which citizens can anonymously inform the police department of suspicious activity or a lead to a crime.

Flynn said, “A lot of crimes have gotten solved from this, because people that wouldn’t normally come forward come forward anonymously.”

Both Gralia and Flynn said they weren’t surprised by Springfield being ranked so highly in the report.

Patrick Archbald, the deputy chief of the UMass Police Department said criminals originating in Springfield don’t necessarily confine themselves to that city, and that he believes they look for target areas such as college campuses, where there is a prevalence of younger people with potentially attractive valuables such as laptops and cars.

Archbald said suspicious activity from intruders from outside cities happens frequently, but emphasized that the UMPD has officers keeping the campus safe at all times. He also noted that crime making its way to Amherst from nearby cities can be in part curtailed by students and citizens taking preventative steps, like locking their doors and making sure windows are secure.

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected]