CAMDEN, N.J. – For the second year in a row, this destitute city has been named the nation's most dangerous, according to a company's annual ranking based on crime statistics.
Last year, the distinction seemed to hurt city boosters' feelings more than it harmed revitalization efforts. This time, city leaders are offended by the ranking, calling it unfair.
"We're doing so many nice things now. It's unfortunate that somebody always wants to bad-mouth Camden," Mayor Gwendolyn Faison said.
The city took the top spot last year from Detroit, which remained No. 2 in the most dangerous city rankings, to be released Monday by Morgan Quitno Press. The Lawrence, Kan.-based company publishes "City Crime Rankings," an annual reference book.
Camden, a former industrial city across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, is known for a history of corrupt politicians, drug dealing and murders. It has been among the top 10 in the most dangerous city rankings in each of the eight years Morgan Quitno released them. By most measures, it is also among the nation's poorest.
The state has poured $175 million into the city to spur development projects and taken over parts of its government, while the city's aquarium doubled in size and a new library and technology center were built. Tourism continues to increase along the river, home to the aquarium, an amphitheater, a minor-league baseball park and a retired battleship.
But about 100 fewer prospective students than expected attended Rutgers University's downtown campus last year, something Provost Roger Dennis attributes to the crime ranking and a serial rapist who assaulted women near and on campus last fall.
Police are now using computers to try to track crime trends, and more officers are patrolling the city's neighborhoods.
Authorities say that has helped drive down the most serious crimes by 18 percent in the first 10 months of 2005 compared with the same period a year earlier.
Some residents say their neighborhoods feel a bit safer.
"I haven't heard that many gunshots," said Gracy Muniz, 22, a mother of three who lives in North Camden.
Critics note that Morgan Quitno's ranking is based on data from last year, when the city of 80,000 averaged a murder a week. Murders from January through October were down by 45 percent compared with the same period in 2004.
Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno, said Friday that while the numbers may not be perfect, they are one of the only ways to compare crime in different cities.