The 2017 Safe Cities Index ranks 60 cities across 49 indicators covering aspects of security in four domains: digital, health, infrastructure and personal security.
Zurich – the only Swiss city to be assessed – placed tenth in the study behind two other European cities (Amsterdam in sixth and Stockholm in eighth), four in Asia (Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Hong Kong), along with Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, plus Toronto in Canada.
Tokyo topped the ranking overall, retaining the position it first held in the inaugural edition of the ranking in 2015.
Source: Economist Intelligence Unit
In terms of the ranking’s individual categories, Zurich did particularly well in health security, placing fourth. The category covers indicators including access to healthcare and social care, and the provision of a healthy urban environment including traffic management and green space.
The Swiss city also ranked tenth for infrastructure security, a category generally driven by affluence, according to the report authors.
However, perhaps surprisingly, Zurich did not rank within the top ten for personal security, with Asian cities dominating this category.
Zurich regularly features highly in rankings of quality of life, which include safety, such as the Mercer survey earlier this year which placed the Swiss city second only to Vienna.
And in 2015 it was judged the safest city in the world by a New York-based research and analysis website.
In 2016 Chris Southwell, a British expat who runs a concierge service in Zurich, told The Local that safety was a big asset of the city.
“You don't feel threatened walking around at night, which I think is really nice for families, to have that security,” he said.
While security remains closely linked to wealth, many cities in developed economies, including New York and Johannesburg, have falling in the rankings since 2015, found the report.
“In many respects it’s the very success of cities, in their role as global social and economic hubs, that makes them more vulnerable,” said the report’s authors, pointing out that wealthy urban centres become terrorist targets.
Growing pressure on housing and services are additional security challenges for urban centres, they said. And while digital innovations can help cities address these challenges, they also pose cyber security issues.
“In general, while the Safe Cities Index measures relative rather than absolute safety, there does not appear to have been a vast improvement in overall levels of safety since 2015,” concluded the report.
“In parts of the developed world, particularly Europe, a series of terrorist attacks has affected personal security. At the same time, city governments in the developing world are still struggling to keep pace with the rapid expansion of their populaces, which is straining infrastructure and overwhelming health services and law enforcement, the extent to which it is even present.”