When it comes to safety, New England city-dwellers are in good hands. The region is home to five of the top 10 safest cities in the United States, according to WalletHub’s 2021 Safest Cities in America report, which for the first time included COVID-19 factors in its calculations.
South Burlington, Vt., and Nashua made it into the top three, snagging the second and third spots respectively, behind only Columbia, Md. Portland, Maine, ranked No. 6, followed by Warwick, R.I., at No. 7. Burlington, Vt., rounded out the top ten for New England at No. 9.
These New England cities also made the list:
11. Manchester, N.H.
33. Bridgeport, Conn.
42. Lewiston, Maine
53. New Haven, Conn.
Researchers compared 182 cities across the country, including the 150 most populous ones and the two most populous cities from each state across three dimensions— home and community safety, natural disaster risk, and financial safety.
This was the first time the annual report included data related to COVID-19, WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said in an e-mail. The report factored in the average COVID-19 cases and deaths “in the past week” per capita and the percentage of fully vaccinated residents.
“This is the first time we considered COVID-19 deaths and vaccinations in the methodology,” Gonzalez said. “Both metrics had double weight, meaning they accounted for 8 percent of the overall score.”
The researchers looked at 44 weighted metrics to calculate the overall score on a 100-point scale, looking at only the city proper, not the surrounding metro. Some of those metrics included the number of mass shootings, thefts, and assaults per capita; the number of law enforcement officers and firefighters per capita; the unemployment rate, the flood risk, and job security. The percentage of vaccinated residents was given more weight (4 points) than hate crimes (2), forcible rape (2), and assault (2).
“The COVID-19 metrics were added to the analysis and were given more weight to make the results of the report more relevant in the current context,” Gonzalez said.
To determine each city’s overall score, the researchers measured the weighted average across all metrics.
South Burlington, Vt., had a total score of 85.04, buoyed by its high rank in financial safety (No. 5 overall) and home and community safety (No. 7 overall). Nashua followed close behind with a total score of 84.38, performing well in the same categories (No. 3 in financial safety and No. 8 in home and community safety). At No. 6 overall, Portland, Maine, had a total score of 82.98, coming in No. 11 overall in natural disaster risk. Warwick, R.I. garnered a total score of 82.36, coming in No. 13 in home and community safety and 22d in natural risk, but lagging in financial safety, at No. 55 overall.
Nashua and Warwick had the second- and third-fewest assaults per capita, the report found. South Burlington was part of a four-way tie for the lowest unemployment rate and had the third-lowest percentage of uninsured people.
There were a number of reasons that these New England cities made it to the top of the list, Gonzalez said. “Some of the reasons these five New England cities scored high in terms of safety include the lack of terrorist attacks and no wildfire risk. Other factors that contributed to these rankings are the high COVID-19 vaccination rates and the low numbers of murders, nonnegligent manslaughters, assaults, and thefts per capita,” she said. “These cities also have a large number of law enforcement employees, a small number of traffic fatalities, and a low tornado risk level.”
Low unemployment, low percentages of uninsured people, households without bank accounts, and few fraud complaints also helped make these cities strong contenders in the financial safety dimension, Gonzalez said.
In Boston, there’s still room for improvement. The city was No. 54 overall, with a total score of 76.49. Though Boston clinched No. 13 in financial security, it came in the bottom half for home and community safety, at No. 97. The city was also part of a six-way tie for the most hate crimes per capita. However, Boston had the fourth-fewest traffic fatalities per capita and the fifth-lowest percentage of uninsured people, according to the report.
Worcester was the safest Massachusetts city measured in the report, with an overall score of 80.07, putting it at No. 18.