- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Ranking websites usually provide a fun distraction and are shared on social media like recipes on Pinterest.

Recently, however, Kinston has made its way onto a couple of ranking lists that city officials are concerned will affect everything from new businesses to home sales.

Roadsnacks.net ranked Kinston as the third most dangerous city in the state for both property and violent crimes earlier this year. Last year, the website homesecurityshield.org ranked Kinston as the second most dangerous city in the state.

Not long after publishing their list, local residents began receiving sales calls from the company selling home security systems, said Mayor B.J. Murphy.

“My point here,” Murphy said, “in coming out now on this second report is that Kinston will not be bullied by startup online websites whose tactics are to create shock value and are designed to either create consumer interest or to achieve some type of a national news headline.”

City attorney Jim Cauley investigated the ranking system used by the websites and found several discrepancies. Both sites collect data from the FBI to determine their rankings which the FBI specifically advises against doing on their crime data website.

According to the FBI’s uniform crime reporting statistics caution against ranking, “These rankings 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.”

Bill Johnson, director for the Kinston Department of Public Safety, advises against reading too much into the website’s rankings.

“When you look at these sources of information,” Johnson said, “it does not go into the details of what actually happened in any community and that’s one of the reasons that the FBI recommends that this not be done and that people do not form their opinion of any given community based on these types of sources of information.”

Laura Lee Sylvester, president of the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce, is one of the first people to hear from potential new residents and businesses in the area. Reports like these can have a negative impact on economic growth.

“Unfortunately when it comes to these websites,” Sylvester said, “it doesn’t give you the full picture, so we are concerned but we’re happy to know that we have a great community to live and work in.”

In addition to inaccurately ranking Kinston as the second or third most dangerous city in the state, the sites fail to provide background about the types of crimes taking place.

“When you look at these sources of information,” Johnson said, “it does not go into the details of what actually happened in any community and that’s one of the reasons that the FBI recommends that this not be done and that people do not form their opinion of any given community based on these types of sources of information.”

Johnson recommends contacting individual jurisdictions with any questions or concerns because they can provide in-depth statistics.

Potential newcomers to the area can also get information from the chamber of commerce.

“Many times people use the chamber as a source of information,” Sylvester said, “and we’re fortunate when that happens because people and potential newcomers and potential businesses sometimes contact the chamber and ask questions which affords us the opportunity to be able then to tell them what a great community we have.”

Murphy urges residents to reach out to the websites and the attorney general to help stop the inaccurate reporting.

“Our hope is that people who love Kinston and notice the changes happening here, will stand up, send an e-mail to [email protected] or call the attorney general or call Home Security Shield and say enough’s enough, we’re not going to be bullied,” Murphy said.

Attorney general Roy Cooper’s office can be reached by filling out a form at www.ncdoj.gov/Home/ContactNCDOJ.aspx or calling 919-716-6400.

Homesnacks.net and Home Security Shield could not be reached for comment.

Jennifer Cannon may be reached at 252-559-1073 or at [email protected] Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JennylynnCannon.

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(c)2015 The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.)

Visit The Free Press (Kinston, N.C.) at www.kinston.com

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