A study published by The Economist identifies the cities that are safest for their residents

No suspense…no French, Spanish, English or American city is part of the biennial ranking published by The Economist Intelligence Unit and The Economist.

The first three places are occupied by Asian cities: two Japanese (Tokyo and Osaka) and Singapore.

  • Washington is 7th, while Paris is only the 23
  • London comes in ahead of the French capital in 14th
  • And Madrid brings up the rear with 25th place; Barcelona with 26th.


What are the selection criteria for this study?

The index measures urban safety among 60 of the world’s largest cities. It looks at 57 key factors related to safety in the following areas:

  • digital
  • health
  • infrastructure (note: Barcelona rises to 3rd place for this particular criterion)
  • civil

The top cities in these indices offer:

  • easy access to high-quality healthcare
  • teams dedicated to cyber security
  • disaster relief plans to ensure continuity of operations in case of an emergency
  • community police services


“The research also highlights the deep relationships that exist between the various types of security: it’s unusual to find a city with very good results in one area of safety but with deficiencies in others.” Naka Kondo, editor-in-chief of the most recent Safe Cities report.


How does a city get on the list?

Digital security

We can’t help but notice that the first five countries have very few cyber attacks.

However, it’s not enough to have a high rate of Internet access for the population, but the digital security of Internet users in terms of personal data and human and logistical resources must also be guaranteed.

The city of Kuwait is a perfect example. With a score of 98% in terms of Internet access, it records malware attacks ranging from 20 to 30%, and therefore falls to 39th place for this indicator.


Health sector

Unrecognizable doctor of medicine is accessing online healthcare data via a touch screen interface. Cyber security and IT concept for health information exchange or HIE within the medical sector.[/caption]Access to and quality of healthcare, food hygiene, air and water quality and the speed of emergency services are all parameters to be taken into account when defining this indicator.

However, these indices remain among the most difficult to establish, given the differences in access to care. It can be assumed, for example, that the economic situation of the countries lowest on the list are not evaluated by their ability to treat diseases but rather by the number of cases reported.

Rather than distorting statistics, this parameter includes an economic dimension which is not essential for the other indicators.


Infrastructure security

Having a good policy is essential for being a leader in this area.

Here, we see that the cities at the top of the list all undertook extensive plans during the year for continuity management, pedestrian protection and reinforced institutional capacity with respect to natural disaster risk management.

Despite being in first place, Singapore, Osaka, Barcelona, Tokyo and Madrid show mixed results on infrastructure as a whole, particularly when it comes to quality.

The most noteworthy remains that of Osaka, which was relegated to 22nd place for the quality of its airports. In fact, the city experiences recurrent air traffic delays…
And yes, that counts as well!


Civil security

Here, we find everything related to maintaining order, such as the deployment of regular police patrols and the use of the latest data analysis technology.

The final results are a bit contradictory. In top-ranked cities such as Hong Kong and Tokyo, corruption and organized crime remain a constant problem.

Likewise, the city of Wellington’s drug use index dropped it to 56th place. However, all factors combined make it appear as a model safecity in the civil safety indicator (5th place).


For many, this type of publication may seem like academic babble, but far from rambling on about the same principles, it highlights the innovations and failures of the largest cities. If the economy plays an undeniable role in this analysis, it’s not the determining factor because we see that even with fewer subsidies, cities such as Mumbai and Buenos Aires manage to provide minimum levels of service.

Cities have a strong interest in improving their public services and particularly the safecity component, especially since we know that more than half of the world’s population (56%) currently lives in urban areas. What will be done when the rate of urbanization increases?  This figure is expected to rise to 68% in 2050, raising fears of increased demands on public services and an increase in feeling unsafe.


To read: Safe City or surveillance city: when technology triggers debate!