Newton appeared in the top 30 of national ranking — but not one the community likely wishes to be on. Recently the town was ranked as one of the most dangerous suburbs in the nation, or at least one of the most dangerous suburbs of 50 selected cities.
"My thoughts are when someone puts together a project of that kind, you have to put some weight to what they are trying to indicate," said police chief Jim Daily.
This month the Movoto real estate blog and company ranked Newton ranked 29th on the danger list.
"It is accurate, but it is a very small glimpse of a very big picture," said Sgt. Bryan Hall. Hall does statistical analysis for the Newton Police Department.
The ranking comes on the heels of the company identifying Newton as the second best city to retire in for the state of Kansas.
Just after the ranking came out, Hall started digging into the numbers and the methods used to create the rankings. Hall said the data used was accurate, and the ranking accurate based on the method used to create them.
"If they would have done it the way I would have, we would have scored differently," Hall said. "I would want to have a more rounded picture. …. We need to identify problems and solve them. We want to make Newton the community people think it is."
About one year ago Hall did a 45-page statistical analysis of crime and staffing for police in Newton. Next month he will give the city commission an additional 14 pages and a report.
The Movoto rankings use 2012 FBI statistics, there were no murders in Newton. The FBI reported seven rapes, four robberies and 91 assaults in 2012.
The FBI reports 672 property crimes in Newton. The report includes 140 burglaries, 505 larceny thefts and 27 motor vehicle thefts in Newton. Newton recored a pair of arsons.
Motovo used those statistics to create a per 100,000 rate for crimes, then created a chance ratio for becoming a victim of those crimes. Results were then weighted. Murder, total violent crime, and total property crime each comprised 30 percent of the final score and total crimes made up 10 percent. The average of these weighted scores was used to determine the most dangerous suburb.
The study ranked 120 suburbs across the country, suburbs to the 50 largest cities in the country for which FBI crime data is available.
Also this year the group rated the safest suburbs, ranking Newton 116 out of 120. That ranking used a different set of statistics and different set of weightings.
"The data set is accurate, but it takes very careful reading of the methodology to understand what they are saying," Hall said.
And according to the FBI, the statistical report created by the agency should not be used for ranking communities.
"Each year when 'Crime in the United States' is published, many entities—news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our nation—use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties," wrote the FBI on its web site. "These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents."