The al.com headline was a head-scratcher.
“Foreign nationals urged to avoid several U.S. cities – including Birmingham.”
“Birmingham was one of several U.S. cities mentioned in travel advisories for foreign nationals following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.”
“USA Today is reporting that the Venezuelan government has issued an advisory for its citizens to postpone trips to the U.S. after “recent acts of violence.”
“The official press release advises that Venezuelans stay away from cities that have the most violence, citing a 2019 Forbes article listing the most dangerous cities in the U.S. Birmingham placed fifth among them, with the news site stating that “Birmingham’s persistently high crime rate can be attributed to the drug trade and its high poverty rate…”
Venezuela, the most dangerous country in the world, is warning its citizens not to visit Birmingham.
Last year Gallup ranked “Venezuela as the most dangerous country in the world for the second straight year…after years of food and healthcare shortages, protests and a high murder rate.”
The Birmingham story everyone refuses to believe
It’s true that the City of Birmingham has a high crime rate, but Birmingham is being compared to other cities like Nashville that include its safer suburbs –which average down the crime rate.
Nashville and Davidson County Tennessee are one in the same.
If you were to cut out a small swath of urban Nashville and measure it for crime, it would likely be the same or worse than Birmingham.
In fact, MSN’s list of most dangerous cities in America lists Metro Nashville at 17th.
CBS’s ranking of most dangerous cities in America places Metro Nashville 20th.
And USA Today Travel pegs Metro Nashville as the 17th most dangerous city in America.
These Nashville rankings include all of Davidson County with its high income, low-crime suburbs. Birmingham’s numbers are not reduced by low crime numbers in neighborhoods like Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Homewood, Trussville, etc.
FBI repeatedly warns against ranking
The FBI warns “Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use the figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region.”
“Despite repeated warnings against these practices, some data users continue to challenge and misunderstand this position.”
It’s instructive to note that the dangerous city rankings of MSN, CBS, or USA Today Travel mentioned above do not include Birmingham–which we know is inaccurate.
I’m not making the case that the City of Birmingham doesn’t have a crime problem.
There are areas in town I avoid.
But there are neighborhoods in Nashville, Atlanta, Memphis, or Mobile that I wouldn’t visit either.
I don’t see Chicago near the top of any dangerous city list and yet Chicago had more than 500 murders last year. And according in NPR there were 60 people shot and 7 killed in Chicago during the weekend of August 3rd.
Birmingham gets an unfair rap
This negative media both locally and nationally is unfairly damaging our regional brand.
Yes, the City of Birmingham needs to continue to look for solutions, but I don’t know anyone from our area planning to move to Venezuela.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org