The ‘Burbs: Extremely Safe or Especially Dangerous?

Long Island is safe. So safe that police recruits are flocking to the island’s two counties, according to an article in last Tuesday’s New York Times:

High pay coupled with low crime rates make a
coveted Long Island job "like winning the lottery in law enforcement,"
said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John
Jay College. Nassau [County] has the lowest crime rate in the nation of
any place with more than one million people, and Suffolk is not far
behind.

Long Island is dangerous. So dangerous that "After a deadly day on Long Island roads," Newsday reported last Wednesday:

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling for a safety
audit of roadways in Nassau and Suffolk, which have more fatal
accidents than any other county in the state.

A decade ago, Northwest Environment Watch (now the Sightline Institute) published a memorable report
showing that violent deaths were less common in Seattle than in the
surrounding suburbs. The author of this myth-buster, Alan Durning, took
the novel but logical step of combining traffic fatalities with
homicides and found fewer violent deaths (per million people) in the
central city. It wasn’t that city drivers were saner. Rather, city
dwellers spent less time driving than suburbanites, giving them fewer
opportunities to kill themselves or other Seattle residents on the
roads, which more than offset the city’s higher homicide rate.

A similar calculation for New York City and Long Island, using 2005 data, likewise upends the conventional wisdom. Per
million people, Long Island had 51 fewer homicides (16 vs. 67), but 50
more traffic fatalities (89 vs. 39), than New York City. In terms of
total violent deaths, the difference between the Big Apple and Long
Island – 105 deaths per million people in the City, 104 on the Island –
is statistical noise.

What this means for our police, I’m
not exactly sure. But perhaps it can lay to rest, once and for all, the
myth that violent deaths stop at the city line. Indeed, if recent
trends continue, the risk-averse may start pulling up stakes from
Lindenhurst and hunting for a house in Lefferts Gardens.

Combined homicides + traffic fatalities per million, 2005
Richmond (S.I.) 74
New York (Manhattan) 86
Nassau 87
Queens 94
Suffolk 120
Kings (Brooklyn) 123
Bronx 127

Download the spreadsheet Komanoff created to derive this data.  

Photo: klauskinski/Flickr 

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