St. Louis checks in as America's most dangerous city while Baltimore suburb ranks as the safest: study
Experts called on communities to improve relationships with police to increase safety
A study ranked St. Louis as the most dangerous city in the United States, while Columbia, Maryland, checks in as the country's safest amid an overall rise in crime across the country.
"Relations between local police forces and the people they are empowered to protect are not good," Steven G. Koven, a Department of Urban and Public Affairs professor at the University of Louisville, said of the results of a WalletHub study. "There is more than enough evidence to point to a breakdown in trust and resort to violence. For example, according to the Fraternal Order of Police (the largest police union in the United States), 2021 was the bloodiest year in history for American law enforcement officers."
The comments come amid a spike in crime across the U.S. since 2020, most notably in the country's largest cities. That problem has been felt worst in St. Louis, which ranked in as America's most dangerous city, according to the results of a WalletHub study released Monday.
WalletHub compared 182 American cities, taking the country's 150 largest cities as well as the two largest cities in all 50 states, ranking them in order of safest to least safe.
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The study used 42 metrics to judge a city's safety, adding in metrics such as COVID-19 vaccination rates, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, firefighters per capita, auto accidents, natural disaster risk, and financial security in addition to crime.
St. Louis ranked poorly in multiple categories, coming in at 179th in Home & Community Safety metrics and 156th in Financial Security metrics.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, came in as the country's second most dangerous city, ranking 165th in Home & Community Safety metrics and 168th in Financial Security metrics.
Rounding out the three most dangerous cities was San Bernardino, California, which ranked 180th for Home & Community Safety metrics, 160th in Natural Disaster Risk, and 142nd in Financial Security metrics.
Other major cities to record bad scores were Detroit, checking in at 181st on Home & Community Safety, 181st on Financial security, and 179th overall. New York City and Chicago, which have both seen a spike in crime in recent years, checked in at 127th and 133rd overall, respectively.
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On the flip side, some cities scored high marks. Columbia, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore with a population of just over 100,000, checked in as the safest city overall. The study found Columbia ranked first in Home & Community Safety, 63rd in natural disasters, and 92nd in financial security.
Nashua, New Hampshire, a city of just over 89,000 located 49 miles north of Boston, ranked second overall. The city scored its highest mark in Financial Safety, ranking second in the category. It also posted high marks in Home & Community Safety, ranking 11th, and Natural Disaster Risk, ranking 27th.
Laredo, Texas, with a population over 260,000 situated 157 miles south of San Antonio near the Mexican border, ranked in at third overall. The city scored its highest mark in Home & Community safety, checking in at fourth place. The city fared worse on Financial Safety, coming in at 107th, while its Natural Disaster Risk ranking came in at 24th.
According to the experts surveyed by WalletHub, improving community relations with police was one of the top ways American cities could improve their safety.
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"Police departments are a crucial pillar of our communities, and the relationship of trust goes both ways," Doug Babcock an adjunct instructor at Saint Michael's College said. "We have seen examples where officers or departments have lost the trust of their community. We have also seen examples where the community reduced support for the department and the whole community has suffered. Departments need to be transparent and strive to represent the makeup of the community they serve."