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How did Chicago — yes, that Chicago — rank as one of the world’s safest cities?

Despite a relatively high homicide rate, Chicago has been ranked as the 19th safest city in the world, thanks in large part to high marks in digital security.
Despite a relatively high homicide rate, Chicago has been ranked as the 19th safest city in the world, thanks in large part to high marks in digital security. AP

At first glance, celebrating Chicago as one of the world’s 19th safest city seems a little, well, unfounded.

Chicago is widely known to have among the highest homicide rates of any major metropolis in the United States. More than 500 have been slain in the city so far this year, according to DNAInfo. That means there’s been a killing almost every day this year.

Violence in Chicago has even attracted presidential attention. In June, President Donald Trump said he was going to be sending federal help to quell the ‘epidemic,’ which the Chicago Sun-Times reports the city had requested six months prior.

So how did the Windy City get chosen as one of the world’s 20 safest cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s rankings this year, beating out other American cities like New York, Washington and Dallas?

The short answer, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, could have something to do with digital security. The rankings don’t only look at personal security — they also look at digital security, health security and infrastructure security. Digital security, the index says, is how well city residents can freely use the internet without fearing privacy violations or identity theft — and how well-protected the city’s power grid, water supply and communications systems are from cyber attacks.

Crain’s reports that Chicago can thank Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at least in part, for high marks in digital security. Last year, Emanuel launched cyber security training in the city this year that teaches college students about digital security, with help from the U.S. Department of Defense, the index notes.

And digital security appears to be a strength across the country.

“Of the cities in the top ten in this category, four are North American,” the index authors write, listing Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Dallas.

One ding for all U.S. cities in the safety ranking, however, was infrastructure.

“America’s failing infrastructure is reflected in its cities’ rankings,” the index authors write. “No US city makes it into the top ten in this category and only San Francisco appears in the top 20.”

It’s also worth noting that, while Chicago has a high homicide rate, it’s far from the worst in the U.S., according to the Trace, a nonprofit news site that covers guns. Even though Chicago has more murders each year than Los Angeles and New York put together, the city’s per capita homicide rate is half St. Louis’ rate. Chicago also falls well behind cities like New Orleans, Baltimore and Detroit.

The top five cities in the Economist safety rankings, in order, were Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka, Toronto and Melbourne.

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