Bradenton, Sarasota police dispute rankings as 'dangerous cities'

jdeleon@bradenton.comApril 3, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Bradenton has been ranked among the top 50 dangerous small cities in the nation, according to a real estate blog.

Bradenton came in at No. 42, while Sarasota was worse at No. 19.

Local police officials, however, say the blog is using old data to unfairly portray the cities as dangerous.

"Basically, I don't feel it gives a fair perception of the city of Bradenton to visitors and residents when you label it as dangerous," Bradenton Deputy Chief Warren Merriman said. "We don't put much credence into it. That data is from 2012."

Movoto Blog, which created the rankings, used its own formula to calculate rankings, putting more weight on some crimes over others.

"I have not been able to verify where the real estate website got their data from and the accuracy of the numbers," Merriman said. "If you are going to label a city as dangerous, they need to be more descriptive."

An increase in larcenies because of a proactive approach by retailers and police resulted in more arrests, which skewed the data, Merriman said. "A high percentage of our larcenies deal with shoplifting at major department stores," Merriman said.

The Annual Crime Report for 2013 has not yet been released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The Semi-Annual Report, however, for the first six months of 2013, reveals the number of crimes increased less than 1 percent. In 2012, the total number of crimes decreased more than 6 percent.

Sarasota Police Department spokeswoman Genevieve Judge also disagreed with the methods used to calculate the ratings, she said.

"Over the last five years, violent crime has done nothing but go down," Judge said. "The most important number is the actual number of crimes."

The Semi-Annual Crime Report for Sarasota reveals an almost 4 percent decrease in the total number of crimes for the first six months in 2013.

In 2012, the total number of crimes dropped by more than 11 percent in the city of Sarasota.

"We really believe Sarasota is a safe community," Judge said.

The department uses a combination of community and intelligence, she said. Additionally the department hired a crime analyst last year to pinpoint crime hot spots for police.

"We believe this is what makes this a safe place to live," Judge said.

Wilmington, Del., was ranked the most dangerous small city in the United States. Pensacola, coming in No. 6, was rated the most dangerous small city in Florida.

Other Florida cities in the Top 10 were No.7 Daytona Beach, No. 8 Homestead and No. 9 Lauderhill.

In all, 13 Florida cities made the list including No. 12 Delray Beach, No. 14 Ocala, No. 15 Fort Myers, No. 16 Boynton Beach, No. 20 North Miami, No. 23 Kissimmee and No. 34 Sanford.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.

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