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When choosing where to live or work, public safety is a top concern. That's why it may be a smart move to consider a city with more police officers and firefighters per capita.
With many cities facing budget cuts, some local police and fire departments have been reduced in size. Still, many jurisdictions have managed to make funding for first responders a priority.
The website NerdWallet compiled a list of the Top 10 cities that it claims "invest the most resources in public safety" (though it only looked at cops and firefighters per capita, and not other types of "investment" in safety, such as paying for training or equipment). NerdWallet's Top 10 cities are:
- Washington, D.C.: 68.5 police officers and 25.3 firefighters per 10,000 residents.
- Birmingham, Alabama: 52.2 police officers, 33.2 firefighters per 10,000 residents.
- Baltimore: 53.4 police officers, 27.9 firefighters.
- St. Louis: 58.6 police officers, 22.7 firefighters.
- Memphis, Tennessee: 43.0 police officers, 30.0 firefighters.
- Hartford, Connecticut: 41.2 police officers, 29.1 firefighters.
- New Haven, Connecticut: 35.5 police officers, 31.9 firefighters.
- Newark, New Jersey: 47.4 police officers, 25.1 firefighters.
- Boston: 42.8 police officers, 26.3 firefighters.
- Atlanta: 49.5 police officers, 22.5 firefighters.
According to NerdWallet, cities that invest heavily in their fire department personnel generally provide services beyond putting out fires and emergency medical response. For example, rather than just responding to your turkey fryer fire emergency, fire departments with a heftier budget may also provide vehicle extrication services or high-angle rescue.
In addition, reductions in a police department's budget often mean that police stop responding to less serious crimes, like vehicle thefts or burglar alarms. A study by the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association found that 26 percent of law enforcement agencies have cut back on investigation follow-ups related to property crimes, financial crimes, narcotics and traffic cases.
What the Numbers Don't Say...
While the idea of having more police and firefighters on hand may make you feel safer, it doesn't necessarily mean that there are lower crime rates in that area. For example, Washington, D.C. actually has the highest crime rate per capita when compared to other states, with 1,243.7 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. This is true even though Washington, D.C., ranked No. 1 on NerdWallet's list of public safety "investment."
NerdWallet's analysis found that even though the higher ratio of police staff to population doesn't always guarantee lower crime, eight of the Top 10 cities in the study reduced either violent crime or property crime rates between 2010 and 2012.
So while the having a better funded emergency services team in your city is definitely helpful, you should still take personal safety precautions.