Essex has once again been listed as one of the safest cities in the Green Mountain State.
Despite dropping two spots since last year, Essex ranked seventh in SafeWise’s sixth-annual and 2020 Safest Cities report.
The rankings are established using FBI crime statistics and US Census population data. For the 2020 list, SafeWise reviewed the 2018 FBI crime reports -- those being the most recent that are complete and available -- and took into account violent and property crime numbers. Population thresholds were also used to reduce the risk of outliers skewing the data; cities that fell below identified population thresholds -- or that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI -- were excluded from the report.
“We were the largest community listed in the top 10 safest list, but I think the reality is that we have maintained a small-town atmosphere,” said Unified Manager Evan Teich. “Many parts of our community have sidewalks or paths that connect blocks and neighborhoods to each other. It is not uncommon to see scores of people walking or biking throughout the day and night -- establishing a safe atmosphere. We have a very dynamic school district that believes in and practices inclusion and life skills, and it’s really on the progressive edge of education.”
Teich says the Town of Essex Selectboard, along with its partners in the Village of Essex Junction, has invested in several areas of need in the community including police staffing and a state leadership role in criminal justice with the town’s Criminal Justice Center -- along with recreation opportunities for youth to have a safe place to go after school, on the weekends, or during holidays.
He added that Essex has partnerships with five other surrounding communities and the Howard Mental Health Center to provide mental health workers who are able to address calls for service in conjunction with police officers. Additionally, the two libraries and an active senior center play a part in providing safe places for the public to spend time.
“It’s terrific that Essex is once again being held up for being such a safe place to live,” said Selectboard Chair Elaine Haney. “All the qualities Evan mentioned: walkability, terrific schools, and generous residents, are things we work hard to encourage and maintain. And the pandemic has made us all grow closer to one another, even when we’re socially distant. Essex really is a great place to live.
“Our residents are also very active in social justice, and together we are working to make Essex an even safer place for all people,” she added. “While our crime rates are low, we all must continue to work hard to ensure that our residents also feel safe from discrimination, bullying, and poverty. It’s work that never ends and it speaks a lot to how committed to the community our residents are that we see so much social justice work happening in Essex.”
To level the playing field, SafeWise calculated the rate of crimes per 1,000 people in each city. Over the last three years, Essex’s violent crime rate has been 0.6 (2020), 0.8 (2019), and 0.4 (2018), and its property crime rates have been 13.6 (‘20), 12.0 (‘19), and 15.8 (‘18).
Castleton ranked No. 1 on the 2020 list with a 0.0 rate for both violent and property crime. For a more accurate comparison, Shelburne -- the highest city with data from the last three years -- took the third spot with violent splits of 0.4 (‘20), 0.1 (‘19), and 0.3 (‘18) and property splits of 6.1 (‘20), 5.7 (‘19), and 7.1 (‘18).
Essex was followed on the list by nearby Chittenden County neighbors Colchester and Milton which took eighth and ninth, respectively. Hinesburg ranked second while Barre Town (4) and Middlebury (5) rounded out the top five. See the full list and more details on the rankings at safewise.com/blog/safest-cities-vermont/.