From the July 19, 2015 edition of The Pueblo Chieftain
By Anthony Settipani
A website called Roadsnacks.net caused a stir on social media last week when it published an article titled “These are the 10 worst places to live in Colorado.” Using a combination of FBI crime statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other information, writer Nick Johnson placed Pueblo at the top of his list.
“When you’re looking at things from a purely scientific standpoint,” he wrote, “Pueblo is by far the worst place in Colorado.” He cited high crime and unemployment to justify his verdict.
The article weathered a storm of comments both on the site itself and on the accompanying Facebook page, as individuals targeted everything from Johnson’s assertion that Alamosa has a prison to the validity of his statistical analysis.
According to Michael Bennett, Pueblo deputy police chief, crime and poverty are indeed major problems in Pueblo. However, Bennett argued that while the statistics published on the FBI’s website may be informative, they are never entirely objective.
“Everywhere on the FBI site, it says ‘please do not make comparisons between cities based on
FBI statistics,’ ” he said. Because different police departments categorize crimes differently, an incident of sexual assault, for example, can be listed in anywhere from one to four or more separate categories.
“The FBI does not mandate which way you go,” he said. “So two cities that may have the exact same numbers of sexual assaults are not necessarily going to have the same number of sexual assaults reported.”
Colorado wasn’t the only state that showed up on the website.
Andrew Joseph Pegoda teaches Texas history at Alvin Community College, about 30 minutes away from Freeport, Texas. Freeport took ninth place in Roadsnacks’ list of worst places to live in that state. On June 30, Pegoda published an open letter on his blog, urging the site’s authors to remember and respect that people have feelings.
“Where and when people are born is an accident of time and place,” he wrote. “How would you feel if your hometown or present home came up on a viral list as among the worst places to live?” In an interview with The Pueblo Chieftain, Pegoda called into question the site’s methodology as well.
“As a historian, I generally reject the idea that you can compare two places,” he said. “When you compare, you inherently say one is better than the other, and when you do that you discount a lot of other variables, like the age of the town, and the history and even the age of the people in the town.
“They pick very select variables to use, and they use them to judge entire cities.”
Sandy Gutierrez, outgoing president and CEO of the Pueblo Latino Chamber of Commerce, also argued that there is much more to these towns than the website suggests. “What they failed to really look at, in my opinion, was the people who live and work and play in Pueblo, and the kinds of opportunities our community presents,” she said. “When you look at the amenities we have here in Pueblo, it actually far exceeds other communities our size.
“It’s frustrating for someone to be measuring our community purely based on data without really understanding what that data means, and without experiencing the wonderful place that Pueblo is,” she said.