Safety is among the biggest challenges facing cities as urbanization, for all it benefits, continues to the change socio-political and demographic conditions, and puts tangible pressure on a city’s capacity to prevent and tackle crime. Developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2015, the Safe Cities Index uses a number of crime and security inputs and outputs to assess personal safety in cities across the world. By inputs, the index refers to 7 crime prevention readiness indicators: level of police engagement, community-based patrolling, availability of street-level crime data, use of data-driven techniques for crime, private security measures, gun regulation and enforcement and political stability risk. Meanwhile, outputs refer to crime rates themselves and 8 indicators are used to give each city a score: prevalence of petty crime, prevalence of violent crime, criminal gang activity, level of corruption in the police force, rate of drug use, frequency of terrorist attacks, gender safety and perception of safety.
Analyzing 17 cities from across the world – Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Jakarta, Istanbul, Kuwait City, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, Mumbai, New York, Santiago, Seoul, Stockholm, Taipei, Tehran and Tokyo – many preconceived notions about safe and dangerous cities held true, especially when looking at total numbers.
Tokyo leads the list for overall personal safety due to a near perfect score for inputs and low levels of crime. A close second is Stockholm, despite scoring nearly 12 points less in crime prevention readiness than its Japanese counterpart – instead, Stockholm’s crime rate is lowest among the analyzed cities. Surprisingly, and despite ranking first overall, Tokyo in facts scores highest for police corruption. In fact, in general, ‘developed’ cities see more police corruption than ‘developing’ ones.
Santiago, Chile comes in last in terms of overall personal safety, which might surprise some given the inclusion of Tehran and Istanbul – cities where acts of terrorism are far more prevalent, the latter recording most incidents. High drug abuse, corrupt police officers, inability to prevent street level crime and lack of security measures contribute to Santiago’s low ranking. On the other hand, strict punishments for crime implemented by Tehran, for example, have acted as a deterrent for potential criminals, making crime rates (outputs) low despite even lower crime prevention readiness rates. Similarly, Middle Easter cities Abu Dhabi and Kuwait City have recorded the lowest crime rates among the 17 cities due to the severity of sentencing.
American cities, New York and Los Angeles, record low personal safety even with very high levels of preventive measures. Gang activity, drug use and gun regulations are just some the reasons crime rates outpace policing.