City addresses false crime rate news story

A frequent visitor wrote, “We keep getting emails about the crime rate in Myrtle Beach. Do you have any information on this?”

Yes, and thanks for asking!

What you’re seeing is bad information that’s being promoted by web sites for their own benefit.  We face this question every year.  It happens because Myrtle Beach is a small town (our permanent population is roughly 30,000), but we welcome millions of visitors each year.  And, that small-town feeling is exactly why people love to visit!  The FBI provides per capita crime statistics based on permanent population.  Obviously, our average daily population is well north of 100,000, but because our Census population is so small, it dramatically skews the numbers.  Other cities with lots of tourism have their numbers skewed, too, but ours is especially noticeable since our permanent population is so small.  The FBI knows this and even puts a disclaimer out with its numbers, but the web sites that promote this “fear factor” conveniently ignore this caution.  Here’s what the FBI says….

“UCR data are sometimes used to compile rankings of individual jurisdictions and institutions of higher learning.  These incomplete analyses have often created misleading perceptions which adversely affect geographic entities and their residents.  For this reason, the FBI has a long-standing policy against ranking participating law enforcement agencies on the basis of crime data alone.  Despite repeated warnings against these practices, some data users continue to challenge and misunderstand this position.  Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place…  Rankings ignore the uniqueness of each local.“

The news media pick up on this “most dangerous” story because it’s ready-made news for them.  If they bother to check with the FBI or even think about why a small town with a big tourism population stands out, they’d understand pretty quickly why the numbers are skewed.  Note that other small town tourist spots are on the list.  Why?  For the same reason.  When you divide the number of crimes by the permanent population, you get a statistic.  But our 30,000 grows by 10-fold at least half the year.  If they used our effective population number, we wouldn’t be anywhere near that list.

We hope this helps you understand why this subject comes up yearly.  Feel free to share this information with other who likely will be misled by these scare tactics.