Camden has ranked No. 1 or near the top of the list of America's most dangerous cities since 1998, when publisher Morgan Quitno began to rank crime in cities.

But Camden will fall off the list when the publisher, now owned by CQ Press, releases its new ratings early next year.

It won't be because crime has disappeared from the city's streets.

The derogatory title will be removed due to a technicality. Camden's city police department was closed down on May 1, 2013, and succeeded by a Camden County-run entity. County-run organizations aren't counted in the CQ Press rankings. So even though the Camden County police force operates nowhere but in Camden City, it will not be included.

"It's true," said Camille Gamboa, spokeswoman for CQ Press and its parent company, Sage Publications. "We do not include counties in our rankings because, as with the Camden County police force, they do not necessarily serve every part of their county, and they are not directly comparable to cities or metro areas."

Camden was No. 1 in the 2012 City Crime Rankings released early this year, followed by Flint, Mich.; Detroit; Oakland, Calif.; St. Louis; and Cleveland. The new CQ Press rankings, based on FBI data released last week, are expected in late January or early February.

It's a list no city wants to top.

The "most dangerous" title has long been a stain on the beleaguered city, also known for its overwhelming poverty.

"It hasn't helped to have this designation for years running. People were upset about it," said Howard Gillette, professor of history emeritus at Rutgers-Camden and author of Camden After the Fall. "Camden doesn't deserve that. Losing the title matters, but unfortunately it doesn't change the underlying conditions."

The number of homicides this year has declined to 32 vs. 50 at this time last year. But despite that progress, based on its 2013 crime data, Camden would have remained at the top of the CQ Press list - if it continued to be considered - as its homicide and violent-crime rates in 2013 continued to outstrip those of its 2012 chart mates.

Police Chief Scott Thomson, in a statement Wednesday, did not directly address what impact, if any, the CQ Press decision would have for the department or the city.

"Measuring the quality of life in any neighborhood is not driven by statistics as much as it is dictated by the residents living in the community," he said. "As a department, we want to be integrated into our neighborhoods and making a daily impact on the lives of our residents, which is not directly tied to numbers."

County spokesman Dan Keashen said coming off the list "provides a benefit for the city and county and signals the progress being made on several fronts in Camden."

Kelly Francis, Camden County chapter president of the NAACP, said falling off the list was no accident. By submitting Camden's violent-crime statistics as a county, Francis said, officials knew the city would not be ranked with other cities in the country.

"Now Christie will be able to go all over the country and say Camden is no longer the most dangerous city in the U.S.," Francis said.

"They did that deliberately. Everyone knows this is not a county department, it's not even close. There's only one city it serves and that's the city of Camden."

Correction:

This story has been updated to reflected the correct number of homicides so far this year. To date, there have been 32 homicides in Camden. 

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796, samwoodiii or samwood@phillynews.com.