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story.lead_photo.caption Fireworks light up the downtown skyline in colorful fashion at the close of Pops on the River, the annual downtown Little Rock celebration presented by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Pops starts with a kids’ zone and continues with music and fireworks. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

Officials in Little Rock defended it Tuesday after a USA Today article ranked the state's capital city among the 50 worst places to live in the United States.

In last month's article compiled by the content provider 24/7 Wall Street and printed in USA Today, Little Rock was named the No. 19 worst place to live. The list cited its high violent crime rate, low growth rate and below-average median household income.

The city's violent crime rate of 1,533 incidents per 100,000 residents is nearly quadruple the national average and "may discourage some from relocating to or starting a family in the city," according to the article.

"I invite 24/7 Wall Street to come down and experience for themselves our downtown renaissance, generous and welcoming people, natural beauty and comfortable way of life," Mayor Mark Stodola said in a statement Tuesday. "In the meantime, we'll continue working tirelessly to build an even better Little Rock."

The mayor addressed the violent crime rate in a tweet and added that several other rankings have recognized Little Rock's quality of life.

"Facts: Violent crime is down 23 percent and property crime down 18 percent in the first six months of this year," he said.

Bill Fitzgerald, vice president of marketing and communications at the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, joined Stodola in touting Little Rock's inclusion on many "best cities" lists.

Most recently, Resonance Consultancy listed Little Rock at No. 23 on its list of America’s 50 Best Small Cities and No. 8 on its top-10 list of Small Cities for Prosperity, he said.

The real estate, tourism and economic development advising agency considered factors such as culture, attractions and nightlife, as well as the employment rate and median household income, in the overall ranking.

"While we're not thrilled about the USA Today listing, we feel good about Little Rock as a great place to live, work and visit," Fitzgerald said. "If you go back to the USA Today list, we're keeping company with some other cool places like Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Tacoma, Wash. I see a whole lot more good about Little Rock than bad."

Fort Smith also appeared on the ranking at No. 50. The article cites the city’s crime rate — the second-highest in Arkansas, behind Little Rock — and states its low educational attainment rate limits economic growth and curbs the earning potential of its residents.

“We were disappointed in the headline and the story because it tells the wrong story about Fort Smith. We really feel it’s one of the finest cities,” Mayor Sandy Sanders said. “Their assertions were highly inaccurate.”

In a statement last month, the mayor said his staff tried to verify the data but couldn’t find matching numbers on the Census Bureau’s website, which 24/7 Wall Street claims to use.

“This article was sandwiched between '20 Italian dishes Italians don’t really eat’ and ‘Top 10 pirated movies from last week,’” Sanders said. “That’s just the kind of blog this is."

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  • amaxwell
    July 10, 2018 at 4:52 p.m.

    Although I think that our crime rate is awfully high....I still think these polls are a bunch of BS.

  • Hawk1945
    July 10, 2018 at 5:04 p.m.

    We will not even go to Little rock if at all possible, because of the violent crime.

  • Eyetrytoo
    July 10, 2018 at 5:13 p.m.

    I too think that our crime rate is much too high. Before you can fix any problem you first have to recognize and admit the problem. If marijuana was legalized for recreational use would that not eliminate much of Little Rock's crime. Would the taxes on it's sales not benefit the anti crime forces? Would it not eliminate the illegal marijuana drug sales and gang turf wars over such sales? I have NEVER taken a puff off a marijuana joint? But that is my choice. Is prohibition of legalized marijuana not very similar to the days of alcohol prohibition? When alcohol sales were legalized and taxed, did it not reduce crime and increase tax revenues for the benefit of society?

  • HarleyOwner
    July 10, 2018 at 5:17 p.m.

    I stay out of Little Rock as much as possible.

  • dph815
    July 10, 2018 at 5:51 p.m.

    I am now moving out of Pulaski County to Conway primarily for this very reason (the violent crime).
    In my opinion, the politicians like Mark Stodola are a large part of the problem. They just do not have the political will to really deal with the problem---just like a lot of other metro areas run by Democrats. Sorry situation, but true.

  • ZeebronZ
    July 10, 2018 at 6:40 p.m.

    Dear Mayor Stodola, YOU take them on a guided tour, unaccompanied by a police escort, to the areas where the lower income people live, where the violent crime and drug abuse are a way of life. With your head stuck in the ground, you can't see the whole picture. There's a reason for the low rating any you know it.

  • levystevy
    July 10, 2018 at 6:44 p.m.

    Read the paper, the violence is there and has been. 20 plus years ago it was known for gang violence and drugs. It has improved but deserves the discredit it has garnered. You read of crime in all areas of Little Rock not just the “ bad “ part of town. Sometimes the truth hurts. Fayetteville and other cities in the state are listed nationally as places to live and places to retire. City officials need to bring change.

  • Nodmcm
    July 10, 2018 at 7:42 p.m.

    Violence, low educational attainment, and low wages have some positives. First, along with the violence comes the freedom to protect yourself with firearms. Yes, its the "Wild West," but at least you can shoot back, unlike in places like Chicago. Low educational attainment is a conservative goal, to avoid the liberal indoctrination that occurs with higher education. Low wages result in wealthier business owners, industrialists, and employers generally. Hey, if you don't like crime move to Rogers, if you want everyone educated move to Boston, and if you hate low wages move to some liberal place like Seattle where the liberals make the business owners pay more for labor.

  • Packman
    July 10, 2018 at 8:48 p.m.

    The vast majority of violent crime in LR occurs in two zip codes. America doesn't have a violent crime problem. America has an INNER CITY violent crime problem.

  • mozarky2
    July 10, 2018 at 8:49 p.m.

    Maybe a new city motto would fix everything!
    How's this: "Little Rock! Hey! Maybe you won't get shot"!
    (Apologies to Dave Barry)