Copenhagen overtakes Tokyo to be ranked world’s safest city

Copenhagen has overtaken Tokyo to be named the world's safest city by the Economist magazine, with the ranking's authors arguing the city's high levels of social cohesion allowed "greater co-creation of security with citizens."

Copenhagen overtakes Tokyo to be ranked world's safest city
A swimmer leaps from a bridge in Copenhagen harbour. Photo: Kim Wyon/Visit Denmark

The Danish capital, which ranked eighth the last time the biennial ranking was produced in 2019, shot to the top partly because of the extra weighting given to “environmental security” in this year’s report, the authors from the Economist Intelligence Unit explained in the report

“Copenhagen is definitely a worthy overall leader and Toronto a well-deserving runner-up, but as much because of long-term success in making residents secure as from any particular improvements in the last two years,” they wrote. “Toronto and Copenhagen do noticeably better in the new environmental security pillar than do any of the top-three cities from earlier years.”

Toronto came second, followed by Singapore in third place. Tokyo, which ranked first in 2019, slipped to fifth place.

The EIU ranked the cities according to five, equally weighted criteria: digital security, health security, infrastructure security, personal security, and environmental security, with Denmark making the top three in all but health and environment. 

The only one of the five criteria where the city led the way was on “personal security”, something both the authors and the city’s Lord Mayor Lars Weiss put down to the high levels of equality in Denmark. 

“One key factor that makes Copenhagen such a safe city is its low crime rate, currently at its lowest level in more than a decade,”  Weiss said in a Q&A included in the report.

“We focus greatly on early intervention with preventive initiatives. Many of these are led through locally based cooperation between schools, youth clubs, social services, and the police – the so-called SSP [schools, social services, police] system.” 

Weiss said that the city also benefited from “great social cohesion and a relatively narrow wealth gap”.

“It is a mixed city where both the cleaning assistant and the CEO meet each other at the local supermarket and have their kids in the same school,” he said. “This is one of the very cornerstones of Danish culture, and it contributes greatly to the high levels of trust and safety that we benefit from.” 

He acknowledged, however, that the city did have a problem with “repeat youth offenders”, and was working extremely hard on  “gang suppression and intervention” so that vulnerable children and young people do not get drawn into crime. 

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Denmark’s sexual consent law ‘used as intended’ in first two years

A review of Denmark’s new sexual consent law by the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions (Rigsadvokat) has concluded that it has been used as intended in the two years since it was brought into the statutes. 

Denmark’s sexual consent law ‘used as intended’ in first two years

The law, which requires both parties to give their consent before sexual intercourse takes place, came into force on January 1st, 2021.

It means that sex with a person who has not given consent will automatically be considered rape in legal trials.

READ ALSO: Danish parliament passes landmark bill to reform law around rape (2020)

“During the past two years, we have seen convictions in cases where the victim has been passive during a sexual assault, which is within the newly criminalized area, where the starting point for the punishment level is one year and two months,”  Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Jessika Auken said in a press statement.

In other cases, courts have found that the accused was not aware that consent had not been given. In those cases, the accused was acquitted, Auken said.

“Our review of case law shows that the law has been applied as intended,” she said.

Under the previous law, conviction under rape laws required the victim to have been subjected to force, violence or threats or to have been in a state of defencelessness.

The number of rape convictions has increased since the new law took effect, as has the number of reports of rape and charges pressed. There were 1,396 reports of rape filed with police in 2020, the last year under the old law, compared to 2,172 in 2021. Charges increased from 1,079 to 1,695 in the same period.

The number of convictions was between 178 and 255 per year in the period 2018-2020 according to newspaper Politiken, rising to 309 in the first half of 2022 alone.

The law has not been universally welcomed, with sceptics having expressed concern that it could lead to false accusations.

These concerns are not backed by research, an expert from the University of Copenhagen has said.

“It could of course occur that somebody regrets having sex with somebody, but research does not support that this should be a cause of false police reports,” law professor Trine Baumbech said in a news article on the University of Copenhagen website in February.

The chairperson of the National Association of Defence Lawyers (Landsforeningen for Forsvarsadvokater), Kristian Mølgard, said in previous comments to broadcaster DR that the law could be a problem if it moves the burden of proof to the accused.

“You risk convicting someone who objectively shouldn’t be convicted because they were unable demonstrate in a sufficiently convincing way that they did nothing wrong in a situation,” he said.

The Public Prosecutions office focused on the new law until the end of 2022 with the objective of observing how it is used in practice and the extent of sentencing. This can give prosecutors a better understanding of how the concept of consent is applied under the law, Auken said.