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Returning to the throne as a citadel of safety, Newton, MA was once again crowned this year as the nation's safest city overall -- an honor that slipped out of reach for the past four years.

The "capital" of Silicon Valley, San Jose, CA was again named the safest big city; Amherst, NY was tops for mid-sized city safety, Newton also was a shoo-in for small town safety, and Appleton, WI won the award for the safest metropolitan area in the nation, in Morgan Quitno Press's annual "America's Safest City" report.

Newton, which hasn't won top honors since 1999, came back strong in a murder-free year.

"Newton has an outstanding record when it comes to fighting crime," said Scott Morgan, president of the Lawrence, KS-based publishing and research company, Morgan Quitno Press.

"It reported no murders and boasts some of the lowest rates among cities for rape, robbery and motor vehicle theft," Morgan said.

Each year, for the past 11 years, to determine cities' level of safety, Morgan Quitno examines U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations' (FBI) statistics for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft and measures how a particular city or metro area stacks up against the national average for a given crime category.

At the bottom of the heap, Camden, NJ knocked off Detroit, MI and received the dubious honor of "Most Dangerous City" in the nation overall. It also repeated as the nation's least safe small city (population 75,000 to 99,999).

Detroit, MI was at the bottom of the heap -- again this year -- for big cities (population 500,000 or more). The Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI area was this year's most dangerous metro area.

Atlanta, GA was the most dangerous mid-sized (population 100,000 to 499,999) town.

An ongoing problem with incomplete or incompatible data supplied to the FBI by some towns left those cities out of the rankings. Missing cities include Chicago, other Illinois cities, Brockton, MA; Newport News, VA and Warren, MI among others not ranked.

The study has also come under fire from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. They point out 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, education levels, crime reporting practices of citizens and family cohesiveness.

Critics say crime rankings are generally "simplistic" or "incomplete."

Morgan Quitno says it stands by its results because they are derived from sound and fair methodology. Cities aren't compared against each other, but against a national average.

"To be sure, crime-ranking information must be considered carefully. However, the rankings tell not only an interesting, but also very important story regarding the incidence of crime in the United States. We certainly do not want to be irresponsible in our presentation of state and city crime data. Our publications help concerned Americans learn how their communities fare in the fight against crime. The first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand the true magnitude of their crime problems. This will only be achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and understand," Morgan Quitno says in its explanation of its methodology.

The final report of "City Crime Rankings (11th Edition)" is available in an abbreviated version online for $4.99. The complete report is also available in book form for $44.95 and as CD-ROM disk for $49.95 or $99.95.

Top 10 Safest, Most Dangerous Cities In America
Rank Safest Dangerous
1 Newton, MACamden, NJ
2 Brick Township, NJDetroit, MI
3 Amherst, NYAtlanta, GA
4 Mission Viejo, CA St. Louis, MO
5 Clarkstown, NYGary, IN
6 Lake Forest, CA Washington, D.C.
7 Thousand Oaks, CA Hartford, CT
8 Colonie, NYNew Orleans, LA
9 Cary, NCRichmond, VA
10 Dover Township, NJ Birmingham, AL
By Size Safest Dangerous
Small Newton, MA Camden, NJ
Medium Amherst, NY Atlanta, GA
Large San Jose, CA Detroit, MI
Source: Morgan Quitno Press

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