VERIFY: Buffalo ranks last in online dating safety list

Verify: Online Dating Study

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo is ranked as one of the least safe cities in the U.S. for online dating, according to a list compiled by SafeWise.com and HighSpeedInternet.com. 

The list was created after experts from both sources analyzed a year's worth of data on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and violent crime. These were then adjusted for population to determine each city's "safety score."

According to the sources, Buffalo ranks as the most dangerous U.S. city for online dating due to a "shockingly" high rate of STDs per capita, which is 8,121 cases per 100,000 residents.

Buffalo also has the 11th highest violent crime rate of 1,119 crimes per 100,000 residents. Buffalo's "safety score" is 0.8, and the city with the highest score, San Antonio, Texas, is 9.4. 

Cities that have a lower safety score are where people should use more caution before meeting people through online dating websites, according to the sources. 

You can see the full ranking here.

We wanted to take a closer look at the numbers. Safewise based its rankings on rates of violent crime and STDs for the country's 56 biggest cities. According to the company's numbers, Buffalo was the 11th worst for violent crime and worst in the entire country for STDs.

To verify those numbers, we contacted the Erie County Health Department and looked through the FBI's crime numbers, which are online.

Let's start with the STD numbers. The study focuses on cities showing Buffalo with a population of around 258,000, but the STD data that Safewise used from the CDC is for the Metropolitan
Statistical Area of Buffalo, Niagara Falls & Cheektowaga which, according to the government in 2015, included more than a million people. That would throw off the per capita numbers and call Buffalo's #1 ranking into question.

We also quickly found another discrepancy. Safewise claims NYC only had 19,327 total STD cases in 2015 while the CDC report shows the number of Gonorrhea cases for 2015 alone for NYC is much higher at 23,721.
New York City was ranked the second safest city for online dating in the Safewise.

The Erie County Health Department's spokesperson told us Buffalo does not have a higher rate of STDs per capita than New York City. and added the data used by Safewise is wrong. The Health Commissioner wasn't available for an interview Wednesday, but will be speaking with us on-camera Thursday to answer our questions.

Next, we went to the FBI's online database which tracks violent crime in the US and breaks down the numbers city-by-city.

Safewise reports 2,887 violent crimes happened in Buffalo in 2015.  And we can verify that that number checked out based on the FBI's website.

But what about how the study was done and how the rankings were determined? We wanted to get that information from Safewise, but Safewise would not agree to Skype with us or talk to us on the phone. A spokesperson for the company told us: "Thanks for reaching out, but our team does not have the bandwidth for a phone or Skype interview this week. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have over email, though."

We emailed the spokesperson asking her about the issues we uncovered concerning the STD data and how they came up with the safety score which left Buffalo at the bottom of the list.

She did not respond by our deadline.

So, based on the information we found out today, we cannot verify that Buffalo is the most dangerous city for online dating. There are just too many issues with how Safewise did the study.

UPDATE: After our story aired Wednesday night, Safewise removed Buffalo from the list of most dangerous cities for online dating. Here is the statement we received from Safewise: 

"There was a miscount when adding up the STD numbers for Buffalo. The STD number has been corrected. It has now been moved to the correct placement according to data from the CDC, the FBI, and the Census data. Safewise analysts only provided the FBI data for this report." -Sage Singleton, Safewise Spokesperson

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