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N.J. City Deemed Most Dangerous

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Once known as the home of Campbell's Soup, Camden, N.J., has a new distinction: It's been named the nation's most-dangerous city, snatching the top spot from Detroit, according to a company's annual ranking based on crime statistics.

"Camden just has a whole host of issues. It's murder rate made it really go the top this time, that and its robberies and motor vehicle thefts," Scott Morgan, president of Morgan-Quitno Press, told CBS Radio News.

Newton, Mass., an affluent suburb west of Boston, was deemed the safest city in the nation among the 354 at which Morgan-Quitno looked.

"Newton essentially has no crime, as far as we can tell," Morgan chuckled. "It has no murders, it has very few burglaries, very few assaults.

"It's affluent, it's well-educated, it's well-employed, it is not probably remarkably diverse, it has not a lot of the social issues that a more urban community would have," he added.

Officials in Camden, which was ranked third last year, downplayed the dubious designation Sunday, saying many steps have already been taken to reduce crime in the city.

"We must give our people jobs, training and opportunity," said City Councilman Ali Sloan-El, who pointed out that Camden's poverty is an important contributing factor to its high crime rate. Camden is across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

Atlanta, St. Louis and Gary, Ind. rounded out the top five in the most dangerous city rankings, which was to be released Monday by Morgan Quitno. The Lawrence, Kansas, company publishes "City Crime Rankings," an annual reference book whose 11th edition will be published next month. Detroit fell to second in this year's list.

However, Morgan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in its Sunday edition that he had been unaware that St. Louis police omitted 5,760 crimes from their 2003 crime data. Provided with the correct data, Morgan found that St. Louis would have switched places with Atlanta.

The news wasn't all bleak for New Jersey. The state's Brick Township was rated the second-safest city for the third straight year, behind only Newton, while the Garden State's Dover Township was ranked tenth. The other communities in the top five were Amherst, N.Y., which had been ranked as the safest city for the past four years, followed by Mission Viejo, Calif., and Clarkstown, N.Y.

The rankings look at the rate for six crime categories: Murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. It compares 350 cities with populations of 75,000 or more that reported crime data to the FBI. Final 2003 statistics, released by the FBI in October, were used to determine the rankings.