The questionable ‘fifth-safest city’ statistic

Is Fort Wayne really the fifth-safest city in the country? Close inspection shows the claim is bogus — times four.

Mayor Tom Henry’s campaign says that “Fort Wayne is the fifth-safest city in the country” with the connotation that citizens are safe from crime. But that statement doesn’t live up to the hype. Below are four reasons the statement is bogus — and they get worse as we go.

1. The statistic includes much more than only crime.

As cited by the Henry campaign, this statistic comes from a web site called InsuranceProviders.com. But as that website states on the web page, three categories were weighed when determining what cities land in its safety Top Ten:

  • Crime
  • Likelyhood of natural disaster
  • Driving safety

The site goes so far as to say, “You’d think crime rates would have a major influence on safety, but that isn’t the case.”

For another example, City No. 8 is described like this:

El Paso comes in at number eight in two ways: driving a little more safely (with 9.6 years between wrecks), and sheer luck: it’s a lot less likely to fall victim to a disaster. But, hey, there’s always room for improvement.

No mention of crime at all in that quote. In fact, the entire Top Ten list is made up of entries that tell the reader that lack of crime is far from the only rationale for placement on the list.

2. The statistic likely covers the previous mayor.

Much has been said about the fact that this InsuranceProviders.com article is from March 2012, more than seven years ago, and thus too far in the past to matter.

That’s bad enough. But the article is so old that it likely does not cover any of the years Mayor Tom Henry has been in office.

Go online today, and you’ll see that the most recent crime statistics available from the U.S. Department of Justice are from 2014, five years ago. Since the InsuranceProviders.com article was written in 2012, its crime statistics likely were from 2007 and earlier — a year before Mayor Henry first took office on Jan. 1, 2008.

So was Fort Wayne really the fifth-safest city in the country when Mayor Graham Richard was in office from 2000-2007? We can’t even say that because of the next two points.

3. The statistic uses unverifiable numbers.

The InsuranceProviders.com article gives us no way to confirm its numbers. It simply mentions numerous sources — the FBI, the United States Geological Survey, NOAA, and Allstate.

Certainly, these are well-known and verifiable names. But the problem is we are not told how these various numbers were added up in this website’s aggregation. We have no idea how much one statistic was weighed versus another. We don’t even know if all of the data were from the same time period.

There is absolutely no way to double-check the math. And as we see below, there is no one to even ask.

4. The statistic is from a sketchy source.

Is InsuranceProviders.com a good source for rankings of safe cities? Who has ever heard of Insurance Providers before this article was published in 2012, or since? What kind of organization is Insurance Providers? There is no information on the website’s footer or About page indicating an address or even a purpose of the business — if it ever was an actual business.

As far as I can tell, InsuranceProviders.com was never a standalone business at all. Instead, this was simply a website built to bring readers to its articles for the sole purpose of tossing them over to QuoteWizard.com (now a LendingTree company) for insurance quotes — and I presume some sort of finder’s fee for the site owner.

The InsuranceProviders.com domain is owned by 360 Quote LLC, another company that does not display its actual location or function.

Such websites are not illegal or even unethical, but there is nothing about such ventures that confer authority to create verifiable articles. How do we know someone friendly to the current administration didn’t create this website to be politically helpful?

Now, I do not think this website has anything to do with anyone in Fort Wayne. There is absolutely no evidence of such. But without independent verification of the truthfulness of the people who wrote the article seven years ago, there is no way to know if there were any kind of quid pro quo.

The statistic that should have been questioned

How did a questionable statistic with an unknowable source become important enough to be used and defended by the mayor?

Mayor Henry has been proclaiming the statistic since his 2012 State of the City Address, so it was natural for his campaign staff to bring this into his marketing materials. But his staff should have been more skeptical of its claims and done some research. Using such a bogus statistic opens the administration for well-deserved criticism.

The claim was popularized by Visit Fort Wayne through this blog post. It’s an example of innocent boosterism that appeals to citizens hungry for good news about their hometown.

But local media should have been skeptical. A little wariness and a few minutes of web searching would have shown that the claims of the InsuranceProviders.com article were way too good to be true.

Jon Swerens is a longtime Fort Wayne resident and editor of The Prow.