Safe City Index: Security in a rapidly urbanising world

The Safe Cities Index 2017 is a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by NEC. The report is based on the second iteration of the index, which ranks 60 cities across 49 indicators covering digital security, health security, infrastructure security and personal security.

The index was devised and constructed by Chris Clague, Stefano Scuratti and Ruth Chiah. The report was written by Sarah Murray and edited by Chris Clague. Findings from the index were supplemented with wide-ranging research and in-depth interviews with experts in the field.

Table of Contents

  • About the report
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Category: Digital security
    • Mobile devices become safety tools
  • Category 2: Health security
  • Category 3: Infrastructure security
  • Category 4: Personal security
    • The economic toll of urban crime
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix 1: Index results
  • Appendix 2: Index methodology

key findings

As in 2015, Tokyo tops the overall ranking. The Japanese capital’s strongest performance is in the digital security category while it has risen seven places in the health security category since 2015. However, in infrastructure security, it has fallen out of the top ten, to 12th. 

In many cities, security is falling rather than rising: With two exceptions (Madrid, which is up 13 places and Seoul, up six), cities tend to have fallen in the index since 2015 (for example, New York is down 11 places, Lima is down 13, Johannesburg is down nine, Ho Chi Minh City is down ten and Jakarta is down 13)

Asian and European cities remain at the top of the index: Of the cities in the top ten positions in the overall index, four are East Asian cities (Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka and Hong Kong), while three (Amsterdam, Stockholm and Zurich) are European.

Asia and the Middle East and Africa dominate the bottom of the index: Dhaka, Yangon and Karachi are at the bottom of the list. Of the ten cities at the bottom of the overall index, three are in South-east Asia (Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta), two are in South Asia (Dhaka and Karachi) and two are in the Middle East and Africa (Cairo and Tehran).

Security remains closely linked to wealth but the rankings of high-income cities are falling: While cities in developed economies dominate the top half of the index (with the lower half dominated by cities in poorer countries), of the 14 cities in high-income countries, the rankings of ten have fallen since 2015.

Income is not the only factor governing city performance on security: Most of the cities in the top ten of the index are highincome or upper middle-income cities. However, two high-income cities in the Middle East (Jeddah and Riyadh) fall below position 40 in the index.

America’s failing infrastructure is reflected in its cities’ rankings: No US city makes it into the top ten in this category and only San Francisco appears in the top 20. The top ten cities in this category are either in Europe (Madrid, Barcelona, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Zurich) or Asia-Pacific (Singapore, Wellington, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney).

However, the US performs well in digital security: Of the cities in the top ten in this category, four are North American (Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Dallas).