Battle Creek leaders dispute city’s ranking in online report

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Screenshot from 24/7 Wallstreet report

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. —  An Internet site includes Battle Creek among the nation’s 25 “Worst Cities to Raise Children,” and leaders in the Cereal City aren’t happy about it. Battle Creek was ranked 22nd on the list.

24/7 Wallstreet is the Delaware-based financial news and opinion website that published the rankings. It notes in an online article that only about 75 percent of the Battle Creek metro area’s high school students graduate on time, compared to the national average of 83 percent. And it calls the Cereal City “relatively dangerous.”

The article also points out there were 559 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2015, compared to the national average of 373 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents.

One of those disagreeing with the findings is Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker. He points out the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting website recommendation that crime statistics should not be used alone in ranking cities because they “have often created misleading perceptions, which adversely affect geographic entities and their residents.”

Chief Blocker provides some historic data indicating that the percentage of violent crime in Battle Creek has decreased in recent years:

2014: 61,225 population / 480 violent crimes
2010: 60,386 population / 702 violent crimes
2000: 54,106 population / 853 violent crimes

“Battle Creek is doing well,” Blocker said in a news release. “The population is growing, and the violent crime index is lowering. It is frustrating to see a statistic used without context to undermine the improvements we continue to make in our community.”

City officials say the ’24/7 Wallstreet’ study should not have used statistics from a county-wide report to assess Battle Creek. The 2017 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Battle Creek leaders say a better measure of the quality of life can be found by looking at a city map, which lists the “many recreation opportunities for city neighbors” within a half-mile of all schools and parks.

“There is considerable overlap between facilities,” says Ted Dearing, assistant city manager for Community & Economic Development. “I would take real exception to the notion that there is not access to areas of physical activity.”

City officials encourage everyone to seek multiple sources of information before drawing conclusions from statistics.

Says City Manager Rebecca Fleury: “We have challenged our staff, and the entire community, to do so, and to believe in Battle Creek. As a city, we are committed to doing the same.”

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