Based on the Public's Actual Crime Fears Amherst, N.Y. is America's safest city, while Newark is the most dangerous, according to an innovative new Money Magazine/Morgan Quitno ranking that measures local crime rates against the crimes Americans fear the most.
America's 10 safest cities, in descending order: Amherst, N.Y.; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Irvine, Calif.; Simi Valley, Calif.; Sunnyvale, Calif.; Virginia Beach; Livonia, Mich.; Plano, Texas; Madison, Wisc.; and Mesquite, Texas.
The 10 most dangerous: Newark; Atlanta; St. Louis; New Orleans; Detroit; Baltimore; Miami; Washington, D.C.; Flint, Mich.; and Birmingham, Ala. The Money/Morgan Quitno study also showed no correlation between the size of a city'spolice force and its crime rate. The 10 safest cities maintain police forces that are at least 25% smaller than the national average.
An exclusive nationwide telephone poll of 501 Americans, conducted in October for the nation's largest financial publication by Roper Starch (error margin: plus or minus 4 percentage points), revealed that despite all the attention given to murders, respondents worry most about someone breaking into their homes. A full 66% called burglary a serious or somewhat serious threat to themselves and their families, followed by car theft (61%), robbery (60.4%), aggravated assault (50%), rape (48.5%) and murder (40%).
Money then asked Morgan Quitno, a Lawrence, Kans. research firm that studies crime statistics, to rank America's cities according to the crimes people said threaten them most; the sum of a city's score in the six major crime categories determined its place in the ranking.
The magazine reports in its year-end 1997 Forecast issue that Amherst (pop. 107,000), a bucolic suburb of Buffalo, boasts the nation's lowest rates for overall violent crime and burglary--a respective 88% and 80% below the national average. Amherst police chief John Askey attributes the city's ranking more to its suburban setting and affluent, well-educated population than to any special crime-fighting prowess by his force.
By contrast, Newark (pop. 260,000), a flinty city eight miles west of New York City, has the nation's highest violent-crime rate, along with a car-theft rate that is more than six times the national average. Its largely poor population (the city's median household income of $21,650 is 40% below the national average, and more than 26% of local residents live below the poverty line) is squeezed into less than one-third as much living space as in Amherst.