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After a four-year reign as "The Safest City in America," the Town of Amherst was voted out this year.

It now occupies the third spot in the nation's safest cities -- behind Newton, Mass., and Brick Township, N.J.

The Morgan Quitno Corp., which will officially publish its annual "City Crime Rankings" book next month, bases its rankings on the FBI's uniform crime statistics report for the year. It compares 350 municipalities with populations above 75,000.

Morgan Quitno unveiled the top 10 safest and top 10 most dangerous cities in the U.S. on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

While its rationale for the ranking likely won't be known until the book is published, it's likely that a nearly 20 percent increase in violent crime in the Town of Amherst -- that included a March 2003 homicide in Williamsville -- played a role in unseating the town's top billing.

FBI Uniform Crime Reports reveal that the instances of violent crime went up from 101 to 120 from 2002 to 2003. Although reports of robberies dropped slightly and forcible rape was down by half, there was a more than 54 percent increase in reports of aggravated assault in Amherst from 48 reports in 2002 to 74 in 2003.

The town's lone homicide occurred March 13, 2003, when Jeremy M. Perkins allegedly stabbed his mother, Elli, 77 times inside their Hopkins Road home because he thought she had "an evil eye." Perkins was being treated by his mother with vitamins to deal with his mental illness.

Besides violent crime, property crime in Amherst also increased by about 7.5 percent from 2002 to 2003.

There was a more than 11 percent increase in larcenies and thefts, which were offset by a 9 percent reduction in burglary and a 24 percent decrease in motor vehicle theft.

After Amherst, the next seven safest cities in the United States were: Mission Viejo, Calif.; Clarkstown; Lake Forest, Calif.; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Colonie; Cary, N.C.; and Dover Township, N.J.

Camden, N.J., was ranked as the country's most dangerous city followed by Detroit; Atlanta; St. Louis; Gary, Ind.; Washington, D.C.; Hartford; New Orleans; Richmond; and Birmingham, Ala.


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