Pine Bluff MSA called second most dangerous in country by national publication


The Pine Bluff Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is ranked the second most dangerous area in the country, according to a national publication.

City Crime Rankings 2012-2013: Crime in Metropolitan America, is published by CQ Press, a Washington-based publisher.

The Pine Bluff MSA includes Jefferson, Lincoln and Cleveland counties.

According to the report, only the Detroit area MSA was ahead of Pine Bluff in terms of incidents of crime in 2011, based on data reported to the FBI in six categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft.

The rankings were listed from least dangerous to most dangerous, with Detroit listed at 358 and Pine Bluff at 357 on the MSA list.

The publication also listed crime rankings for cities across the country, but Pine Bluff was not on that list because the rankings were collected only for cities with populations more than 75,000.

The crime data for the Pine Bluff MSA includes not only reports from police and sheriff’s departments in all three counties, but data reported by the State Police reflecting crimes that occur in the prison system. There are nine prison units in Jefferson and Lincoln counties.

Department of Corrections Communications Director Shea Wilson said there were two homicides in the prison system last year, one of them in the Pine Bluff MSA. Of the 22 assaults reported system wide, 15 were in the Pine Bluff MSA and one inmate-on-inmate rape was reported, also in the Pine Bluff MSA.

“We’re aware of the rankings and we take them seriously,” Interim Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks said. “You have to bear in mind, however, those numbers were for 2012 (and based on 2011 statistics) and it is our intent for 2013 numbers to be significantly different.”

One of the differences Hubanks hopes to accomplish is a reduction in the number of homicides reported in Pine Bluff, which had 18 last year.

“We’re hoping for a 50 percent reduction, but even if we achieve that, we’re still three times the national average and that’s no reason to celebrate,” he said. “Our plans are based on problem-oriented policing, and it’s a common sense, can’t miss approach.”

Hubanks and members of his staff sat down shortly after he was named to the position on Jan. 1 to talk about what it would take to lower the crime rate and came up with the concept of problem-oriented policing.

“I believe with a moral certainty that the common-sense approach is going to have an impact on the crime rate,” Hubanks said. “Watch for the success and people can feel free to hold my feet to the fire on what I’m talking about.”

Other Arkansas metropolitan areas listed as dangerous were Memphis, Tenn., which includes areas in Arkansas and Mississippi; Little Rock; Texarkana, Ark., which includes areas in Texas; Jonesboro; and Fort Smith, Ark., which includes areas in Oklahoma.

The Memphis MSA was ranked 355, Little Rock MSA 351, Texarkana MSA 343, Jonesboro MSA 244 and Fort Smith MSA 184.

In terms of dangerous cities, only Little Rock, at 419, and Fort Smith at 317 made the list of 432 cities.

The three safest MSA’s, according to the report, were Logan, Utah-Idaho; Provo, Oreg., Utah; and Appleton, Wisc.

The three safest cities were Fishers, Ind.; Johns Creek, Ga.; and O’Fallon, Mo., while the three least safe cities were Camden, N.J.; Detroit, Mich.; and Flint, Mich.

Major Lafayette Woods Jr., operations commander for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said that when information is generated from reported information about certain crimes, not all the factors are explained as to how the polls achieve the final list of one city verses another one.

“It is my belief that the ranking is attributed to more than what meets the eye of the reader,” Woods said. “In addition to including multiple areas such as all penitentiaries and other counties to arrive at the 2nd ranking of Pine Bluff in the poll for the most crime polluted areas, the economic decline and high drug trade that the county of Jefferson as a whole is plagued with is a contributing factor for such a high ranking.

“Jefferson County’s position as an ideal drug transit point helps keep it high on some but not all crime statistic polls,” Woods said. “Some rankings such as CQ Press oversimplify the issue, are unfair to certain cities as well as counties and tell individuals little about their personal risk in various locations. Additionally, polls such as the one conducted by the CQ Press simply make available public data and leave it to readers to draw broader conclusions.”

According to a press release from CQ Press, the annual rankings of cities, states and metropolitan areas are considered controversial by some in the law enforcement community.

“The FBI, police and many criminologists caution against rankings according to crime rates,” the release said. “They correctly point out that crime levels are affected by many different factors, such as population density, composition of the population (particularly the concentration of youth), climate, economic conditions, strength of local law enforcement agencies, citizen’s attitudes toward crime, cultural factors, educational levels and crime reporting practices of citizens and family cohesiveness.”

A call to the marketing and communications director of CQ Press, Ben Krasney, was not returned Friday.

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth was not in the city Friday and when contacted by telephone, said she had not seen the publication and would not make a comment until she could see the material.