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In the Hood?

Is Annesdale-Snowden one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country?

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When Annesdale-Snowden resident Gabe Martin saw a story listing two of Memphis' neighborhoods among the 25 worst in the country, his initial reaction was relief.

"I said thank God I'm not in that," he says. "Then I looked at it again five minutes later and I realized I'm right there, just inside the line."

Martin and his family live in a four square on Sledge, about a block inside the area that personal-finance website WalletPop recently ranked 11th on its list of most dangerous neighborhoods in the nation.

"I wasn't surprised that Memphis was on the list, but I was a little surprised that our neighborhood was," Martin says. "There are a lot of worse places out there."

Residents of Annesdale-Snowden, a diverse Midtown neighborhood of about 200 homes, cite the area's architecture, greenery, price, and location among its benefits. The area also hosts an annual Halloween party and Easter egg hunt, as well as a home tour every two years.

But in the dangerous area that WalletPop identified as Bellevue/Lamar, the western part of Annesdale-Snowden is lumped in with a motel, several vacant lots, an interstate, what used to be the Lamar Terrace housing projects (now University Place), and plenty of walk-through traffic.

WalletPop put the chances of being the victim of a violent crime in the overall area at one in eight annually.

"When you say Bellevue and Lamar, that is our neighborhood," Martin says. "None of that is happening in our homes or neighborhood. I think a lot of the data came from stuff going on in the projects and vacant buildings."

Martin describes Annesdale-Snowden as close-knit. Long time resident Katie Lincoln agrees: "This was a slap in the face to us because we really put a lot into our neighborhood."

When drug dealers moved in, for instance, neighbors worked with the police to get them out. They've rallied against the nearby motel, and though it was closed under a nuisance complaint several years ago, it has since re-opened.

But the Lincolns also have put their money into the neighborhood more than once.

Lincoln and her husband moved into Annesdale-Snowden more than 20 years ago from a house out east. They thought they'd be in that house for the rest of their lives, but a few years ago, they noticed a house down the street that had been vacant for several years and was in danger of falling down.

"We thought we'd fix it up and sell it," Lincoln says. "We didn't want a house falling down on our block."

After putting so much money and effort into the restoration, they decided to move into it and sell their other house.

The Annesdale-Snowden case exemplifies something Memphis police director Larry Godwin has been saying for years: Comparative crime rankings are misleading.

Annesdale-Snowden residents recently received a report from the University of Memphis' Center for Community Criminology and Research that debunked many of the city's crime rankings.

For instance, the highly publicized list of cities with the highest violent crime — in which Memphis ranked second — didn't take into account cities that don't report violent-crime totals, such as Chicago. And though the data comes from the FBI, the FBI doesn't compile the list.

WalletPop predicted there would be 242 annual violent crimes in the Bellevue/Lamar area, but the local criminology report said that the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports are city-level data, not broken down to a zip code, census tract, or neighborhood.

"Crime density varies tremendously by geography, population density, type of housing, poverty rates, and a multiplicity of other variables — without local data (specific police incident data) you can't analyze neighborhood crime patterns," reads the report. "They try to make it sound scientific by saying they use 25 algorithms (formulas) but without accurate data, it is just alchemy."

It's an alchemy that some residents of Annesdale-Snowden call unfair. They've considered suing under a "slander of property" action, but mostly they want to make sure the neighborhood doesn't get a bad rap.

"I'm not going to lie: Anywhere in Memphis you're going to be near something you'd rather not be near," Martin says. "We felt like this place was going in the right direction."

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