Amsterdam ranked world’s fifth safest city in 2015 index

According to the Safe Cities Index 2015, a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, Amsterdam is one of the safest urban centres in the world. The Dutch capital placed fifth overall in the index, which ranked 50 cities worldwide.

The index comprises a range of risk areas, categorised as Personal, Health, Infrastructure and Digital Security. Analysts not only measured safety outputs, such as the frequency of accidents, break-downs, and homicides, but also considered inputs (policy development and spending).

This allowed them to compare cities dealing with diverse circumstances. For example, many of the top-performing cities, such as Amsterdam and Zurich, have very small, stable populations compared to fast-growing cities like Tokyo and Mumbai.

For the "megacities", trying to adapt and execute security policies for their booming, often sprawling populations is a challenge, especially when resource growth lags behind.

On the other hand, Amsterdam and other Western European cities face their own struggles, such as encouraging entrepreneurship and adapting and maintaining ancient, decaying infrastructure for modern urban life.

Unsurprisingly, though a high income level was shown to be no guarantee of safety, cities located in developing economic regions were concentrated in the lower half of the index.

Amsterdam’s performance

Amsterdam placed fifth in the overall ranking, behind Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka and Stockholm, in that order. This was largely due to its strong performance in the Personal and Infrastructure Safety categories.

 Personal safety

Amsterdammers are the ninth safest urban group in the world when it comes to individual safety. For this index, analysts looked both at the frequency of crime and at the innovative ways cities are combating it.

In many cities crime prevention revolves around a healthy police presence. The researchers also noted the rise of technology-based approaches, with data analytics often helping to prevent crimes in their early phases.

But enhancing personal safety can also include the intelligent design of urban spaces. In many Dutch cities, for example, the front doors of houses tend to open directly onto the sidewalk - making it more difficult for criminals to sneak inside.

 Infrastructure safety

This category measures such factors as road quality, power sources and distribution, adequacy of public transit and preparedness for natural disasters.

Amsterdam placed fourth in this index, showing the extent to which it has managed to modernise its historical centre for trams, cars and crowds of tourists.

The analysts note that many cities have approached similar challenges by using data sensors to monitor the condition of building foundations, tunnels and sanitation networks.

 Health security

Though European cities were best represented in the Health Security category, Amsterdam failed to crack the top ten, despite the celebrated efficiency of the Dutch healthcare system.

The index looks at prevention and response to pollution, public health campaigns, and access to health care. It also considers the availability of green space and distribution of grocery stores versus fast food restaurants in low-income areas.

 Digital security

Amsterdam was also absent from the Digital Security top ten. Its poor performance was reflected in Europe as a whole: the highest-scoring European city in this list was London at position 16.

Under the umbrella of Digital Security the analysts measured factors such as privacy policies, preparedness for hacking, and the presence of cyber security teams.

They stressed the need for cities to take stock of how many areas of their functioning actually depend on cyber safety. As noted in most of the other indexes, digital technology is taking over some very fundamental areas of urban management. While it may help to mitigate certain risks, it also opens the door to new ones.

Conclusion: a new lens on urban safety

The researchers do not view their list as comprehensive, as they needed to work around disparities in data availability in some regions.

However, by focusing on both inputs and outputs in diverse city contexts, and on the role of technology, their work sheds light on the interrelatedness of modern urban policy considerations. The four indexes overlap in countless respects.

For this reason, the report advises cities to hold up comprehensiveness and inclusiveness as core pillars of enhancing urban security.

Emily McCallum


Emily McCallum

Emily grew up in a small coastal town in western Canada and moved to Utrecht in 2014, after completing her studies in Vancouver and Germany. So far, she has been...

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