According to the first ever United States Peace Index (USPI), which was created by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Maine is the most peaceful state and Nevada is 48th on the list. The only two states ranked less peaceful than Nevada are Tennessee and Louisiana.
The USPI defines peace as “the absence of violence” and took five sets of indicators into account when ranking states: homicide rates, violent crimes, percentage of the population in jail, number of police officers and availability of small arms.
Regardless of where Nevada ranked on the list, Reno and Sparks residents who were found Saturday at the Sparks Marina and on Friday in Reno’s Riverwalk District said they feel safe in northern Nevada.
“I grew up one-half hour out of New York City,” said Richard Smith, longtime Sparks resident. “And I feel totally safe here. I wouldn’t put Nevada at number one, but I’d say we are right in the middle somewhere.”
Chris Webster, who recently moved to Sparks but has worked in Nevada for quite some time, also guessed Nevada would rank somewhere in the middle of the peace index.
“It’s pretty peaceful here,” Webster said. “I’d say we are somewhere in the middle, like 20 or 30.”
Smith and Webster were both shocked to find out Nevada is ranked 48th on the list, and attributed the low ranking to the Las Vegas crime rate.
“That comes from the southern part of the state,” Smith said. “It’s safe here. I have walked at the marina at 1 or 2 in the morning and felt safe.”
Julia Holland, a Sparks resident for three years, said she thinks Nevada is very peaceful.
“I love Nevada,” Holland said. “I think it is one of the best (states), coming from Seattle. You can run at the marina at 11 at night and no one bothers you.”
Holland said she heard about the peace index Friday on the radio and was surprised at Nevada’s ranking, but her friend Shaylene Peaden thought 48th sounded about right.
Peaden was born in Reno and lived in Las Vegas for a period of time before returning to Reno in 1998, and said she believes the findings of the study to be accurate based on the level of crime she witnessed in Vegas.
“Nothing happens in Reno,” Peaden said. “But thinking statewide, I knew that Vegas was bad.”
Sparks resident Jim Grace also attributed Nevada’s low ranking to Las Vegas crime. Grace said he has lived in Sparks for 12 years and thinks it is peaceful in northern Nevada, but can understand how the state ranked at the bottom.
“I have not really seen a problem so much here,” Grace said. “But with the availability of guns and the population in Las Vegas, it makes sense.”
The index provided each state with an estimated “total cost of violence,” which reflects the cost of correctional and policing services, judicial system operations and medical costs associated with violent crime and homicide, along with lost productivity and wages. The IEP estimates the total cost of violence per person in Nevada is almost $2,000.
“The IEP estimates that at a time when states and lawmakers in Washington are struggling to balance budgets, reductions in violence, crime and incarcerations to the same levels as Canada would result in more than $360 billion in savings and additional economic activity,” a press release states. “This additional economic activity has the potential to create 2.7 million jobs nationally, which would significantly reduce unemployment.”
“Peace translates into dollars and cents,” IEP founder Steve Killelea said. “We have seen this in the finding of the 2010 Global Peace Index, where we found that a 25 percent reduction in global violence would free up $1.8 trillion USD annually.”
Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said she does not feel like she lives in a community that is not peaceful, but was interested in the positive economic impacts to the community if it became more “peaceful.”
“I’m most interested in the point in the study that said you could save over one billion dollars by becoming more ‘peaceful’ because much of that is attributed to education,” Smith said in an email. “Since our graduation rate is the lowest in the nation it makes sense that if we could increase our graduation rate, which would lead to a less violent society, then the social costs related to crime and violence would go down.”
Though Nevada ranked low compared to other states, the index indicated peace in Nevada has increased 5.5 percent since 1991 and peace in the U.S. increased 8 percent from 1995 to 2009.