Saturday, June 22, 2013

Things that will be missed, Part I: Safety

My wife and I will be returning to the US shortly.  

There are certainly lots of mixed emotions.  This is the second time I have lived in Europe for a period of two years:  last time I lived in Budapest.  This is the fourth time I have lived in Europe total including a study abroad in London and a summer in southern France after undergrad.   
I think I finally realized my love for Europe.  I really love the cities.  In terms of livability, European cities exceed American ones in every way (with a couple of notable US exceptions like New York, San Francisco).
If you are an EU citizen, European cities are cheaper in terms of cost of living, provide better public transportation, and are exponentially safer than American cities.  

This post will be devoted to the relative safety of European cities compared to American cities.  

Don't get me wrong, Baltimore has some really cool stuff but then there's also the chance you'll be on the wrong street at the wrong time and get stabbed for no reason.  Or more likely shot!    The incidence of violent crime here is not just a little less.  
Here's a chart on violent crime per 100,000 population in the US:
United States
Crime rates (2011)
Crime typeRate*
Forcible rape:26.8
Aggravated assault:241.1
Violent crime:386.3
Motor vehicle theft:229.6
Property crime:2908.7
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
Source: FBI Crime in the United States 2011

Here is a report by the US State Department on crime in Austria:

 Austria0.656EuropeWestern Europe
This table show Austria, a country with a population of about 8,000,000 people had 56 murders based on this 2012 data.   Compare this with Baltimore, whose murder rate annually tops 365/year and it is a city of only 619, 500 inhabitants according to Google.  

We have been lucky to have friends visit us while we were here.  Also, some friends contacted us to ask about a spouse traveling here for a conference.  All these American friends always asked the same thing, "where are the "bad" areas?"  The reality is there are no bad areas.  As with all cities there are more preferable places to live depending upon your interests in sightseeing, night life, etc, but, at least in Vienna, in the city center there are no dangerous areas (based on an American's sense of danger).  In the two years we have lived here, there were two notable violent events reported in the news here.  One, a woman was raped on the subway, it was a major news story.  Two, there was an armed bank robbery in which someone was shot.  Those are the only two notable violent events in two years.

We, as Americans, are so used to expecting bad areas in cities that we cannot imagine a safe city.  This is SOOOOOO SAD!  It makes me sad to think many Americans believe, 'cities are dangerous, that's how they've always been, that's how they are across the globe.'  Sure, you could get pick pocketed here in Austria like anywhere else.  You could accidentally get hit by a bus, tram, car, or biker.  BUT....
I have lived in four European cities over the past 15 years of my life and have walked around every one of them in the middle of the night.  I mean dark, unpopulated streets in the middle of the night.  Without fear!  

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