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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Milwaukee: Safer than you think

by folkbum

I've had this open in a couple of tabs since yesterday, but Jim Rowen posted it this morning and so I thought I had better get to it as well. Carla Saulter at Grist writes about how the safest places to raise children tend to be big cities:
People, especially children, are most likely to be hurt or killed in an automobile crash, and, not surprisingly, automobile crashes are more prevalent in areas that require cars to get around. (Outer suburbs also tend to be dominated by two-lane roads, which are responsible for roughly 77 percent of automobile fatalities.) Even though the risk of homicide by a stranger (incidentally, a small percentage of all homicides) is slightly higher in central cities, the difference is not enough to overcome the significantly elevated risk in outer suburbs of a fatal car crash.

Of course, there's more to safety than staying alive. Most of us would also like to avoid being assaulted, harassed, or robbed. So what of the crime that does exist in cities? According to Skenazy, that's going down--and not just a little bit. We're talking historic lows. Crime rates have been falling in almost every category (including crimes against children) since the mid-90s, and are no higher today than they were in 1974.
Indeed, just this morning there's another story about violent crime rates being lower today than at any other point in my entire lifetime.

Saulter cites a 2002 University of Virginia study (pdf)--no doubt, with the continued decline in violent crime since then the results would be even stronger--suggesting that it is far more dangerous to live in isolated, car-heavy areas rather than in cities, a study I'd not seen before. (UVA repeated the study focusing just on VA itself in 2009 with the same results.) Milwaukee was one of nine metro areas (city plus surrounding counties) in the 2002 study; the city of Milwaukee was a safer place to live than 3/4 of the counties in the study, and safer than neighboring Washington County, where residents are more than twice as likely to die in traffic accidents than in Milwaukee. (Ozaukee and Waukesha Counties were slightly safer.) The safest of all was the inner-ring suburbs in Milwaukee County, where density and walkability are far higher than the outer-ring, exurban counties. (The City of Milwaukee was also listed as a safer place to live than any of the Wisconsin exurban counties of the Twin Cities metro region!)

Whatever you may think of life here in the urban hellhole that is Milwaukee, it's a lot safer than life in a lot of those exurban hellholes to the north and west of here.

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