Wednesday, January 28

Cities are safest

Sometimes when I tell friends that I live in a particular neighborhood in the city, I get questions about whether I feel safe living there. These concerns are from well-meaning people who have generated a conception of the "inner city" (even inner-city Charlottesville!) from some combination of movies, rap videos, and occasional news items. I assure them that my neighborhood is friendly, and that having so many people walking around and sitting on front porches in the summer makes it quite safe. Almost all of the violence that does occur is internal to gangs or drug networks. It does not generally have an impact on law-abiding citizens.

And sometimes I wish I would continue on ... even the most affluent suburbs and exurbs are more dangerous. Driving is the only means of transportation in these places, and most accidents happen relatively close to home. Although automobile fatalities and injuries receive much less media attention, they certainly substantially outnumber homicide cases. At least, that's my common sense take on it.

Now, thanks to a new University of Virginia study by Bill Lucy, I actually have some State-wide evidence to back up this hunch.

"During the five-year study period, annual traffic deaths ranged from a low of 922 in 2004 to a high of 1,026 in 2007. Traffic injuries were about 50 times the death rate, ranging from 49,138 in 2007 to 52,083 in 2006.

For homicides, the low was 390 in 2004 and the high was 416 in 2003. Cities that often are considered dangerous, like Richmond and Norfolk, ranked 19th and 30th in the number of traffic and homicide-by-stranger deaths among the 49 metropolitan-area jurisdictions included in the ranking.

The 10 safest jurisdictions were eight cities — Manassas Park, Falls Church, Alexandria, Manassas, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Virginia Beach and Colonial Heights — and two counties, Arlington and Fairfax.

The 10 most dangerous jurisdictions were low-population-density counties: in order, Charles City, Clarke, New Kent, Dinwiddie, Greene, Goochland, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Prince George and Campbell


Brant said...

I grew up in Richmond at the time when it ranked #2 in the country for murder rates, right behind Washington, D.C. To this day, I meet people who are leery of downtown Richmond.

The truth now is just as it was back then - as long as you're not in the habit of buying crack, you're safe. I went to high school in the City and every two months it seemed that someone was killed within a 5 block radius of the school. But again, it was never random and always drug related.

I've traveled through dense urban areas all over the country, and abroad. From Richmond and Detroit to Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam.

There are definitely unsafe urban places in the world (parts of South Africa and Brazil jump to mind) but of my top 10 - none are American cities.

As far as crime goes, it's a publicized minority of events that lead to fear about some of our safe urban neighborhoods.

LH said...

Daniel, this reminds me of a comment that was left on my blog last year from a colleague of mine who lives in a pretty rough part of West Philadelphia, and yet understands that the most dangerous thing he does each day is not sleep in his house but drive 20 miles to work.

mcnerd said...

Recently discovered your blog and am totally hooked. Thought you might find my analysis of urban safety (guns vs cars) in Boston relevant:

My brother lives in C-ville (law school) and of course, feels completely safe and at home out on the city streets.