Settle Down Rev. Lovejoy, We Don’t Have That Many Churches

Go back to enjoying your rock and/or roll music.

Go back to enjoying your rock and/or roll music.

Does Las Vegas really have more churches per capita than any other city?

Maybe back when the population was about 100,000. Or maybe if you included every licensed wedding chapel. Maybe if you squinted, you’d believe what likely began as a little white public relations lie and morphed into an oft-repeated myth. But it’s certainly not true today. New Orleans was the first city I semi-randomly compared (2012 data); it has about one church to every 500 residents, more than double that of Las Vegas. End of story. Besides, who needs Vegas myth when Vegas truth is so interesting?

Nevada was just named second in crime by the FBI. What gives?

Coming in second place is never fun, but USA Today’s recent ramble on “The Most Dangerous States in America” (cue dramatic music) was another kick to a recession-battered state. In the FBI’s 2012 data, Nevada put up some big numbers in auto theft, assault and robbery. But it is important to add perspective to any “per- capita” assessment such as this, given that our state’s annual tourist population (52 million) dwarfs its residential population (2.75 million) by a ratio of almost 19-to-1. Tennessee, for example, tops the list in “crimes per capita,” with 55 million annual visitors to 6.5 million residents. Third-place Alaska hosts about 1.6 million annual visitors versus 731,000 residents. The visitor-to-resident ratio of Tennessee (8.5-to-1) and Alaska (2.2-to-1) clearly suggests that our per-capita crime stats are skewed by visitation.

This isn’t meant to imply that the crimes don’t happen, or that it isn’t important to note that they do, or that visitors and locals shouldn’t be aware of the risks. Rather, it’s about the perspective that any stats can be manipulated, and that per-capita stats in Nevada are almost useless.

Media reports draw on the FBI statistics to generate fear-mongering headlines—a practice that directly challenges the bureau’s warnings against such crafted manipulation. The FBI website states that media-derived “rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions.” Exactly.