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Bakersfield fares poorly in study ranking safest cities in America


The Bakersfield arch at Buck Owens Boulevard and Sillect Avenue.

Take heart: Bakersfield is not as bad as St. Louis, Mo.

But it's also a far cry from Columbia, Md., listed in a study published by WalletHub Monday as the safest city in America.

Bakersfield landed near the end of the pack, 150 out of the 183 cities included. St. Louis came dead last.  

Perhaps not surprisingly, the palm tree-paradise of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Walt Disney-blessed environs of Anaheim are listed as far safer than Bakersfield.

But the city is also listed as less safe than cities such as Newark, N.J. and Chicago, Ill., both of which have made news for their high crime rates, with Newark ranking in a February survey as one of the top "murder capitals" in the country. 

City Manager Alan Tandy said the city has burglary and auto theft levels that are "unacceptably high," and its homicide rates tend to shift over time. 

Crime and quality of life issues are what spurred the creation of Measure N, he said, which passed by 97 votes as election results stood Monday. City officials said they would hire 100 more police officers if the measure passed, allowing the department to respond to more complaints in person. 

Tandy noted, however, that studies ranking Bakersfield in various categories come out frequently, and some "don't necessarily correspond to reality."

For example, last week a homebuyers website named Bakersfield the fourth hottest housing market in the country.

"While the housing market is OK, we’re certainly not the fourth hottest housing market," Tandy said. 

Among the 39 "key metrics" examined in the WalletHub study were the following classifications:

• Home and community safety — These include crimes such as murders and rapes, but also the number of law enforcement and firefighters per capita and factors such as traffic fatalities and road quality.

• Natural disaster risk — Risk levels are given for everything from hurricanes and floods to hailstorms and wildfires. 

• Financial safety — Unemployment rates, foreclosure rates, poverty rates, job security and more are included in this category.

These factors, some of which were given more weight than others, were used in ranking each city. 

Bakersfield did well in certain areas. For instance, the city ranked best in the category of "presence of terrorist attacks," with zero. It came in at 18 for forcible rapes per capita, and 22 in the category of "fraud & other complaints" per capita. 

Unsurprisingly, Bakersfield also ranked at or near the best in hurricane, tornado and hail risk levels. 

In a number of other categories, however, the city fares poorly.

Bakersfield is ranked 171 in foreclosure rates, 168 in unemployment rates, 173 in traffic fatalities per capita and 150 in both drug poisoning deaths per capita and job security. 

Compared to other California cities, Bakersfield's overall rank of 150 just edges out Stockton (151), San Francisco (152) and Oakland (154), and beats Los Angeles (174) and San Bernardino (180) by a fair margin. 

Best among California cities is Irvine (30), followed by Fremont (33), Chula Vista (39), Glendale (44), Rancho Cucamonga (45).

California is also well represented in the middle of the list, with cities such as San Diego, Moreno Valley and Riverside filling in spots from the 50s into the lower hundreds. 

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