Is Europe Safer Than the US?

Is Europe Safer Than the US?

If we were to compare European countries to the United States, how do these two compare in terms of safety and crime rates? Is Europe safer than the US? How high would these two regions of the world score in the ranking of the safest countries in the world?

I compared European countries to the US to find out what’s best if you’re looking to live in the safest country possible. Here are the results of my research.

Europe vs the US: Overall Countrywide Safety

Let’s start by comparing on a country level. Later in the article we’ll compare on a city level.

Global Peace Index Rankings

Global Peace Index is the most common index you’ll find mentioned in articles on the safest countries in the world.

The problem is that apart from homicide rate, the risk of terrorist attacks and political stability, the Global Peace Index also takes into account military spending and conflict which doesn’t necessarily reflect the everyday life in a given country.

If we were to compare the Global Peace Index of the United States to European countries, the US would rank WAY behind every single European country except for Ukraine and Russia.

In fact, the United States ranks #129 in the world out of 163 countries due to its military spending and involvement in various conflicts around the world.

After Ukraine and Russia, the closest European country to the United States is Belarus at #116 and then Georgia at #95. The closest country in European Union is Cyprus at #67.

According to the Global Peace Index, some of the safest countries in the world are in Europe. Out of the top 10, 7 are European nations.

Winner: Europe (except for Ukraine and Russia)

Numbeo Safety Index Rankings

Europe vs the US: Safety

Numbeo’s Safety Index is a much more useful methodology than the Global Peace Index to figure out how safe a given country is. The data comes from contributors who complete a survey answering questions about various crime-related aspects of life including:

  • Level of crime
  • Crime increasing in the past 3 years
  • Worries home broken and things stolen
  • Worries being mugged or robbed
  • Worries car stolen
  • Worries things from car stolen
  • Worries attacked
  • Worries being insulted
  • Worries being subject to a physical attack because of your skin color, ethnic origin, gender or religion
  • Problem people using or dealing drugs
  • Problem property crimes such as vandalism and theft
  • Problem violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery
  • Problem corruption and bribery

In other words, Numbeo’s Safety Index is the most useful in quantifying both the risk of violence as well as petty crime in a foreign country you don’t have personal experience with. For me, it’s the most accurate ranking of the safest countries in the world which I used before for my articles on cheapest and safest places to live in the world, safest warm countries to live in, and safest Eastern European countries to visit.

A score of 80-100 means a very safe country, 60-80 means safe, 40-60 means moderate, 20-40 means unsafe and below 20 means very unsafe.

The safest countries in the world currently have a score of 80-85 (the safest country is Qatar closely followed by the United Arab Emirates) while the least safe country has a score of 17.4 (the most dangerous country is Venezuela).

When we look at Numbeo’s Safety Index by country, the United States ranks #88 in the world, with a safety score of 51. This makes the United States a rather average country in terms of safety. Just three European countries rank below the US:

  • Belgium: 50.9, 89th safest country in the world
  • France: 44.7, 107th safest country in the world
  • Belarus: 43.6, 109th safest country in the world

Every other European country is safer than the US. The closest country in Europe to the United States after the three aforementioned countries is Sweden, with a score of 51.5 and ranking 85th. The next one is Moldova, with a score of 52.9 and ranking 80th.

So, if we were to compare crime rates (or at least their perception according to Numbeo contributors), the United States is a much less safe country than every European country except for three (with two of them being in the European Union and one not).

According to Numbeo’s Safety Index, two countries in Europe are in the global top 10 safest countries in the world (Armenia and Switzerland) and 9 are in the top 25 (Armenia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Monaco, Croatia, Iceland, Estonia, Georgia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, and Austria).

Winner: Europe (except for Belgium, France, and Belarus)

Europe vs the US: Violent Crime Rates

Violent Crime Rate: the US vs Europe

While it’s difficult to compare all kinds of violent crime between countries, we can compare intentional homicide rates measured by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

A very low crime rate here would be lower than 1 victim per 100,000 people. 41 countries have such a rate. These would be the safest countries in the world with a very low risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

The United States has a rate of 6.4 intentional homicide victims per 100,000 people. This makes it the 135th safest country in terms of violent crime rates and nowhere close to the safest countries in the world.

There’s only one European country that ranks below the US and it’s Russia with a rate of 6.8, ranking 141st in the world.

The closest European country to the US is Ukraine with a rate of 6.2 (#134) and Greenland with a rate of 5.3 (#127). The closest country in European Union is Lithuania at 3.7 (#114).

When comparing intentional homicide rates, some of the safest countries in the world are in Europe. Out of the top 10, 6 are in Europe.

Winner: Europe (except for Russia)

According to all these rankings, the United States is thus much less safe than almost all countries on the Old Continent.

The least safe countries in Europe that are worse, comparable or only slightly better in some factors compared to the US are Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, France, Belarus, and Lithuania.

Other than that, most European countries are some of the safest countries in the world, way ahead of the US. This includes both the most developed countries as well as the ones that are still developing.

European Cities vs US Cities: Which Are Safer?

Europe vs the US: Safest Cities

We looked at country rankings. But how do European nations compare to the United States if we compare specific cities instead of looking at countries as a whole?

Here we can look at Numbeo’s Safety Index by City. Instead of scores applying to countries, these apply to cities only. Numbeo currently has 346 cities in its database. Out of these, 38 are in the US and 131 are in Europe.

Out of the 38 US cities in the ranking, the safest city is Salt Lake City, Utah. It has a score of 66.5 and ranks #94. Its safety is above such cities in Europe like:

  • Porto, Portugal (66.4, ranked #95)
  • Aberdeen, United Kingdom (65.9, ranked #98)
  • Dusseldorf, Germany (65.5, ranked #101)
  • Budapest, Hungary (65.3, ranked #102)
  • Cork, Ireland (64.6, ranked #104)

The second safest city in the United States is Boise, Idaho. It has a score of 64.5 and ranks #105. It’s safer than the following cities in Europe:

  • Nuremberg, Germany (64.1, #106)
  • Moscow, Russia (63.3, #109)
  • Limassol, Cyprus (62.7, #116)
  • Cardiff, United Kingdom (62.5, #117)
  • Brighton, United Kingdom (62.0, #118)
  • Kaunas, Lithuania (61.9, #119)
  • Riga, Latvia (61.5, #121)
  • Belgrade, Serbia (61.4, #122)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom (61.3, #124)
  • Lviv, Ukraine (61.3, #125)
  • Strasbourg, France (61.3, #126)
  • Florence, Italy (60.6, #129)
  • Saint Petersburg, Russia (60.4, #130)

The third safest city in the United States according to Numbeo is Boston, Massachusetts. It has a score of 60.1 and ranks #131. Three European cities follow it before the fourth safest American city:

  • Antwerp, Belgium (60.0, #133)
  • Limerick, Ireland (59.3, #135)
  • Lodz, Poland (59.3, #136)

The fourth safest city in the US is Austin, Texas, with a score of 59.2 and a ranking of #138. But here I’ll stop listing more cities in Europe.

We’re covered top3 safest cities in the US and are already at position #138. This means that the United States isn’t a particularly safe country considering that its safest ranked city is the 94th safest city in the world and its third safest city is the 131st safest city in the world.

50 European cities are safer than the safest city in the US. They’re located in 22 different countries:

  • Austria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Switzerland

Out of these, if we were to take a look at the top 25 safest cities in the world, 14 are located in Europe. The safest European country, Bern in Switzerland, is ranked #7th in the world. If you want to read more about the safest cities in Europe, read my article on Europe’s safest cities.

If we were to look at the most dangerous cities in the world, the United States is home to some of the worst ones. According to Numbeo, Memphis, Tennessee, is the most dangerous city in the US with a score of just 24.2 and ranking #333 out of 346 cities in the world. Baltimore ranks #332 with a score of 24.4.

Meanwhile, the most dangerous city in Europe is Catania in Italy. It has a score of 35.5 and ranks #306. The second most dangerous European city is Marseille, France, with a score of 36.1 and ranking #305.

Overall, there’s no question that cities in Europe are on average much safer than most cities in the US except for a few of the safest ones. For me, this unquestionable level of safety is one of the biggest benefits of living in Europe. Cultural differences aside, most Americans would also feel much, much safer on the Old Continent.

As a whole, whether it’s a big city or a small town, you’re much more likely to feel safe in Europe than in the United States. Of course, certain cities in America are safer but other cities are much more dangerous. So in the end, Europe is home to many of the safest places in the world while the US only to a few.

Winner: Europe

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