The United States Is One of the World’s Safest Countries
Some suggest that the United States is one of the world’s most violent countries. Some suggest that it’s comparatively safe. Who is correct?
For decades, we have been told that the United States is one of the world’s most violent countries, filled with dangerous cities and endless illegal firearms. Critics cite a history of violence towards any group not part of mainstream life. Movies and television shows portray the American West as endlessly violent (it wasn’t). China currently warns visitors about gun violence in American cities. I’ve heard dozens of times that violence is as American as apple pie.
The observation of the U.S. being one of the world’s most violent countries isn’t true; there are an endless array of countries with more serious crime problems, Crime in America.
No one is suggesting that the United States doesn’t have a problem with violent crime (especially in recent years), but the portrayal of America as one of the most violent countries was always a myth.
Gallup’s Law and Order Index provides some context as to where the U.S. stands in relation to other countries and safety.
Gallup (direct quotes)
Gallup sees strong relationships between people’s answers to questions about their own security and their own experiences with crime and law enforcement and external measures related to economic and social development. These relationships illustrate how high crime rates can often suppress social cohesion and negatively affect economic performance.
Gallup’s Law and Order Index uses four questions to gauge people’s sense of personal security and their personal experiences with crime and law enforcement:
In the city or area where you live, do you have confidence in the local police force?
Do you feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where you live?
Within the last 12 months, have you had money or property stolen from you or another household member?
Within the past 12 months, have you been assaulted or mugged?
The 2018 Global Law and Order report presents the results from Gallup’s latest measurements of people’s answers to these questions based on more than 148,000 interviews with adults in 142 countries and areas in 2017.
Latin America and the Caribbean Score Lowest on Security. As in previous years, people in Latin America and the Caribbean are the least likely among all global regions to feel secure in their communities.
The region scored a 62 on Gallup’s Law and Order Index — slightly worse than its score of 64 in 2016.
Residents of the U.S. and Canada, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Western Europe are the most likely to feel secure, with index scores of 85 or higher.
When you look at individual countries, the United States ranks 35th out of 142 countries measured on Gallup’s Law and Order Index with a score of 84.
Singapore was highest with a score of 97.
The vast majority of the countries scoring higher than the U.S. are small with a history of less complex population and religious demographics. There are exceptions such as Canada (score of 90), China (score of 88), Spain and Germany (score of 85).
The lowest scoring countries include Mexico (score of 40), South Africa (score of 31) and Venezuela (score of 17).
The United States is not one of the world’s most violent countries regardless of its current crime problems. We’ve known that for many years.
In fact, many of the 34 countries posting higher scores than the US are small and lacking in the intense multicultural aspects of American life. Generally speaking, traditionally homogeneous societies have less crime.
I’m not quite sure that comparing Singapore, Norway or Iceland (top three scoring countries for safety) to the United States indicates a level playing field. Same with Finland, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden and others who had better scores. It would be like comparing Montana to France.
If you only included large, multicultural and multireligious societies, the United States would score much higher. Regardless, placing 35 out of 142 countries isn’t shabby.
Yes, we have our problems with violence, but there are many others far worse.
See our observations using Gallup data as to trust and confidence in American policing here.
Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. You can contact me at [email protected].