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America’s Safest Cities
October 28, 2009, 5:50 am
Filed under: world news

These metros have the lowest rates of violent crime, workplace deaths, fatal crashes and natural disasters

After living five years in New York City and waiting tables while working part time as actors, Pamela Russell and her husband Todd were looking for a safer, cheaper place to put down roots–without giving up all the city perks that they so enjoyed in the Big Apple. Luckily for them, they chanced upon the Twin Cities.

“We drove into Minneapolis and fell in love almost instantly,” says Russell, now 38, who settled in Minneapolis with her husband and started a theater company–as well as a family of five kids–10 years ago.” Among the buzz and hum of Minneapolis, the biggest bonus of it all is that the crime rates are shockingly low. Sure, we lock our home at night, but we feel very safe living here.”

Minneapolis tops our list of America’s safest cities, and not just for its crime rate. In ranking the cities on our list, we looked at workplace fatalities, traffic-related deaths and natural disaster risk; the City of Lakes ranked in the top 10 of all four categories. It’s also one of America’s best places to live cheaply and offers easy access to some of the most scenic drives in the country.
The Milwaukee metro area, buoyed by the lowest natural disaster risk of the cities we considered, ranks second. The Portland, Ore.,metro, which boasts the lowest crime rate, places third. Boston and Seattle are tied for fourth. Both benefit from low traffic fatality rates–Boston’s is the lowest on our list, and Seattle’s is the eighth-lowest. This is largely because they boast two of the most user-friendly mass transit systems in the country. In addition to being environmentally friendly, these networks provide an alternative to driving while intoxicated.

“Some cities have transit systems that penetrate more of the area,” says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “The biggest factors in fatal crashes are alcohol impairment and speeding. So to the extent that communities do a good job of reducing alcohol impairment and speeding, that should show up in fatal crash rates.”
Behind the Numbers

To determine our list of America’s safest cities, we looked at the country’s 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas across four categories of danger. We considered 2008 workplace death rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2008 traffic death rates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and natural disaster risk, using rankings from green living site SustainLane.com. It devised its rankings by collecting historical data on hurricanes, major flooding, catastrophic hail, tornado super-outbreaks, and earthquakes from government agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and private outfit Risk Management Solutions. We also looked at violent crime rates from the FBI’s 2008 uniform crime report. The violent crime category is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. In cases where the FBI report included incomplete data on a given metro area, we used estimates from Sperling’s BestPlaces.
Seeking Shelter

While the strength of a metro’s mass transit in some cases influenced its traffic fatality rank, the types of industry located there largely affected each city’s workplace death rate. These tended to be lowest in areas like Seattle and San Jose that contain a profusion of technology and service jobs–or Detroit, where nearly one quarter of the workforce is unemployed. Dangerous jobs are more prevalent in industrial centers like Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, whose workplace death rates were five times higher than the safest, Minneapolis.

“Obviously there are some jobs that have a higher fatality rate than others,” says Matt Gunter, a researcher at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “If there’s a concentration of that sort of job in a certain city, there’s probably going to be a higher fatality rate.”

Mother nature can knock down trees, flood houses and even destroy entire neighborhoods. To gauge which cities most feel her wrath, Sustain Lane collected data from observation posts at different areas within cities. It notes that the natural disasters observed generally affect the entire metro area and greater region in which they occur. SustainLane measured the likelihood of disaster as well as the extent of damage. Miami was rated as having the highest natural disaster risk.

“There is an issue of frequency vs. severity to take into consideration,” says Ken Ott, director of city rankings at SustainLane. “San Francisco and Oakland are due for a 100-year quake, but these only happen every 100 or so years, while Miami is in a frequent hurricane path.”

Miami’s natural disaster risk was part of another perfect storm–one composed entirely of statistics. America’s southernmost metropolis ranked among the six worst in all four categories we measured, earning it the lowest overall safety ranking on our list.

Top 5 America’s Safest Cities

4. Seattle, Wa. (tie)
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.
Violent crime: 3 of 40
Workplace deaths: 2 of 40
Traffic deaths: 8 of 40
Natural disaster risk: 31 of 40

4. Boston, Mass.
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.
Violent crime: 10 of 40
Workplace deaths: 5 of 40
Traffic deaths: 1 of 40
Natural disaster risk: 28 of 40

3. Portland, Ore.
Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.
Violent crime: 1 of 40
Workplace deaths: 10 of 40
Traffic deaths: 5 of 40
Natural disaster risk: 25 of 40

2. Milwaukee, Wis.
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis.
Violent crime: 24 of 40
Workplace deaths: 11 of 40
Traffic deaths: 4 of 40
Natural disaster risk: 1 of 40

1. Minneapolis, Minn.
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
Violent crime: 9 of 40
Workplace deaths: 1 of 40
Traffic deaths: 7 of 40
Natural disaster risk: 7 of 40

1 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3,229,878 9 1 7 7 24
2 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 1,549,308 24 11 4 1 40
3 Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA 2,207,462 1 10 5 25 41
4 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 4,522,858 10 5 1 28 44
4 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,344,813 3 2 8 31 44
6 Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA 1,596,611 6 7 11 28 52
7 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,819,198 2 8 6 38 54
8 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 19,006,798 11 15 2 27 55
9 Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN 2,155,137 8 27 20 2 57
10 Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH 2,088,291 15 25 17 2 59
10 Denver-Aurora, CO 2,506,626 5 28 16 10 59
12 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 4,425,110 40 4 10 8 62
13 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 3,001,072 14 6 19 26 65
14 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 4,281,899 17 17 27 5 66
15 Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI 9,569,624 26 23 9 9 67
15 Austin-Round Rock, TX 1,652,602 4 14 34 15 67
15 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 6,300,006 19 12 18 18 67
18 Pittsburgh, PA 2,351,192 7 37 24 2 70
19 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 12,872,808 21 3 12 35 71
20 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 5,358,130 16 24 13 20 73
21 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 5,838,471 28 30 14 6 78
22 San Antonio, TX 2,031,445 25 16 30 12 83
23 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 5,376,285 20 20 32 14 86
24 Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA 2,109,832 22 18 15 33 88
25 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 4,274,531 29 22 3 39 93
26 Baltimore-Towson, MD 2,667,117 34 21 21 21 97
27 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 1,658,292 13 31 22 32 98
28 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 2,733,761 32 9 38 22 101
29 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV 1,865,746 39 26 29 11 105
29 Columbus, OH 1,773,120 12 36 23 34 105
31 Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC 1,701,799 31 29 25 22 107
32 Kansas City, MO-KS 2,002,047 27 32 33 16 108
32 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 4,115,871 18 19 36 35 108
34 St. Louis, MO-IL 2,816,710 23 39 31 16 109
35 Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 2,054,574 38 13 40 22 113
36 Indianapolis-Carmel, IN 1,715,459 30 40 26 19 115
37 Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN 1,550,733 36 33 37 13 119
38 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 5,728,143 33 38 28 37 136
39 Jacksonville, FL 1,313,228 37 35 39 30 141
40 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 5,414,772 35 34 35 40 144

Methodology

To determine our list of America’s safest cities, we looked at the country’s 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas across four categories of danger. We considered violent crime rates from the FBI’s 2008 uniform crime report; 2008 workplace death rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2008 traffic death rates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and natural disaster risk, using rankings from green living site SustainLane.com.


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