Preliminary Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics released this week show that New Haven is the fourth most dangerous city in the United States.

The Elm City follows Flint, Mich., Detroit, Mich. and St. Louis, Mo. as the U.S. city with the largest violent crime to population ratio according to the FBI’s 2010 data. This list, which compiles crime statistics from all locations with more than of 100,000 or more people, reported an overall 5.5 percent decrease in violent crime between 2009 and 2010.

Keeping with this national trend, New Haven itself reported a violent crime reduction from 2,195 incidents in 2009 to 1,978 incidents last year. This positive change, however, was not enough to keep the city from having the eighth highest rate of robbery and the fourth highest rate of assault in the U.S. according to the FBI data.

New Haven did not even crack the top ten most dangerous cities in last year’s FBI rankings: it ranked 18th in violent crime behind Buffalo and ahead of Hartford.

The FBI’s city rankings are still in the preliminary stages as some of the crime data needs to be audited further.

Although several news agencies have already run with the story of America’s newest crime rankings, the FBI cautions against such orderings based on its statistics on its official website:

Each year when Crime in the United States is published, some entities use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.

New Haven data can be found here.

The FBI’s preliminary 2010 report.