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Manila’s ‘highest’ crime index ranking purely based on user surveys

Manila’s ranking as the city with the “highest” crime index in Southeast Asia on Numbeo, a crowdsourced online database about countries and cities worldwide, is based solely on survey responses about how safe their users feel.

A table ranking the crime index ranking per city was uploaded by We Love Asean on a Facebook group with the same name on May 14. 

Another version of the Facebook post has been circulating on X since May 15, raking over 5,496 viewers as of writing.

FactRakers found no change in the top 10 rankings of all Southeast Asian cities as of May 16, but the crime indices of most cities fluctuated except for Manila, Jakarta, Pattaya and Iloilo.

Some users on Facebook questioned the accuracy of the ranking, while pro-Duterte accounts on X who shared screenshots of the post have used it to criticize the Marcos administration.

The statistics were taken from Numbeo, which was founded by Serbian engineer Mladen Adamovic in April 2009 and prides itself as having been quoted by multiple publications that refer to their data as user-contributed.

Numbeo's crime indices are "derived from surveys conducted by visitors to our website," presented on a scale of 0 to 100.

Based on Numbeo’s methodology, the crime index, with higher scores indicating more crime, and the inverse safety index, are only defined by each user’s subjective perceptions of safety and crime levels per city or country.

The "current" index reflects real-time user inputs, which may not represent the general population. As of April 2024, the data came from only 417 users over the past five years. Since users can comment on any city's crime index, someone could rate Manila as unsafe without ever visiting.

After FactRakers answered 15 questions on how worrisome certain crimes such as theft and assault in Manila are, the city’s crime index slightly dipped from 64.7 to 64.58, while its security index rose from 35.26 to 35.42.

“It's important to note that the Crime Index… is based on user-contributed data and perceptions, which may differ from official government statistics,” Numbeo said.

Unlike Numbeo which relies on user perception, the expert-backed Global Organized Crime Index (GOCI)’s criminality score accounts for two subcomponents: criminal markets and criminal actors.

GOCI assesses 15 criminal markets (human trafficking and wildlife trafficking, for example) for their scope, scale and impact. It also evaluates the structure and influence of five criminal actor types such as mafias and state-embedded actors. The GOCI also measures a country’s resilience or its capacity to counter organized crime.

In 2023, GOCI ranked the Philippines fourth in Southeast Asia for criminality and seventh for resilience. However, the ranking only applies to countries, not cities.

Numbeo has been flagged multiple times by Agence France-Presse as misleading after citing 11 French cities within the first 15 places in the "ranking of the most criminal cities in Europe” in 2022 and listing six cities in South Africa in the top 20 “world’s most dangerous cities” in 2019.

The Facebook post has garnered over 307 reactions, 81 comments and 32 shares as of writing. (CPJ)


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